Early findings of a detailed survey conducted by Azim Premji University, across 12+ states in India have found that relief measures provided post-COVID-19 lockdown have proved to be grossly inadequate for the economically disadvantaged. The summary of the findings are the lockdown has devastated livelihoods and left many vulnerable to poverty and even food insecure.
A massive 67% of workers who were surveyed across 12+ states in India have lost their jobs and this has led to 74% of households consuming less food than they were before the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the survey by APU in collaboration with 10 civil society organisations found.
As a result of the same, 49% of the households do not have not enough cash to buy even a weekâ€™s worth of essential items, and eight out of the 10 households are not able to pay rent.
A large number, 770 of the 3970 households surveyed, were from Karnataka. 60% of their respondents were from rural areas and more than half were women, and 80% of the households surveyed had a monthly income of less than Rs 10,000.
This situation has forced 37% of the households to take loans from informal sources including money lenders.
The surveyors found for non-agricultural self-employed workers who were still employed, average weekly earnings fell from Rs 2240 to Rs 218 (a fall of 90%). As part of the same survey, weekly earnings of those engaged in casual wage work on average has been found to reduce by Rs 456.
Among salaried workers, more than half were unpaid or given reduced wage. While 47% of them got their regular pay, 2% had their salary hike withheld.
For all these metrics in every aspect, urban India was worse affected compared to rural India.
Reach of relief measures
On the positive side, 86% of the vulnerable households received rations from government ration shops. While 6% in rural areas were unable to procure ration, 15% of urban poor could not get ration.
The Rs 500 monetary benefit announced for every woman Jan Dhan Account holder â€” only 30% of the respondents got the money. A massive 64% did not have an account and 6% did not get money even though they had an account.
Only 25% of the 688 farmers got transfers through the PM-KISAN scheme.
Taking into account all cash transfer benefits, only 53% of rural and 36% of the urban among the surveyed got such benefits.
The researchers suggested that universalisation of the PDS (public distribution system) to expand its reach and implementation of expanded rations for at least the next six months is necessary to mitigate the crisis.
In addition, they suggested cash transfers of at least Rs 7000 per month for two months be given. This they said from a macroeconomic perspective as well, will bring back demand in the economy.
Other measures suggested were opening up and expansion of MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act) and exploring ideas of urban employment guarantee schemes or even universal basic incomes.