Residents in India’s Darjeeling City are facing difficulties in receiving COVID-19 vaccination amid the second wave of the epidemic outbreak that is raging in rural areas.
Most of the 1.8 million residents who live in Darjeeling, West Bengal, live on growing tea and the tourism industry.
Vaccination, online education and bread-and-butter issue were the three major challenges facing Darjeeling residents during the second wave of the epidemic.
The government has set up a vaccination center for every 10 to 20 villages in deep mountains, but long distances and lack of information make it difficult for villagers to get vaccinated.
“There are very few cars available due to the lockdown but vaccination centers are very far away. I have to wait for a chance to hitch a lift,” said Saran Singh, a villager.
“A primary health center covers a population of 30,000 to 40,000 and the vaccination sites get very crowded. When we go to get the COVID-19 shot, there are lots of people gathering, which may cause the transmission of the novel coronavirus,” said Amrit Chhetri, another villager.
Villagers say it is common there are many people or no vaccines at vaccination centers which are often closed or open only once a week.
Villagers living in Darjeeling depend on tea plantations and tourism for their livelihood. During the epidemic, there were no tourists at all. So there was no opportunity to make money.
Their job in tea gardens is not stable either.
They say they have no problem getting enough food thanks to the good natural conditions in the mountains. But they do not have the money to buy mobile phones and pay for Internet access which are necessary for their children’s online classes.
“I have two children. But due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are facing the biggest trouble – the children will take online courses. But I’m too poor to provide good education conditions for my children. I don’t even have the money to buy them a phone,” said Sujay Verma, a local resident.