A detailed survey carried out by Azim Premji University along with the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) and Gauri Media Trust have found that the coronavirus-induced lockdown and lack of adequate relief have aggravated the situation for vulnerable populations.
More than 800 persons across Karnataka including Bengaluru were surveyed through a purposive sampling method to ensure diversity in location and type of work done, but focus remained on casual workers, self-employed persons and migrants.
The study found that while 72% of respondents reported losing their employment, 68% of vulnerable households (household income less than Rs 10,000 per month) reported having received no cash transfer benefit from the government. Seventy four percent of these vulnerable households also did not receive any government (central or state) assistance in terms of ration.
All this led to half of the surveyed people saying that they had to take loans to cover their expenses, while nine out of 10 households said that they cannot pay next month's rent.
According to the report, 67% of the respondents were male, 32% were female and 1% were transgender. Hindus comprised 88% of the respondents, followed by Muslims at 9%. Migrants constituted 25% of the sample, most of whom were located in urban areas.
The other key finding of the survey was that there was a 67% fall in average earnings of casual workers, self employed, and non-agricultural workers; further, six in 10 households were without enough money to buy even a week's worth of essentials.
Compared to general (49%) and OBC [other backward caste] (53%) households surveyed, a higher number of SC/ST (scheduled tribe/class) households (63%) were without enough money to buy more than a week's worth of essential items.
The same survey found that eight in 10 households reported consuming less food than before.
The survey found that the effects of the lockdown was more severe in urban Karnataka with three out of every four respondents saying they lost their employment. On the whole, non-agricultural casual workers and self employed in non agriculture were the worst hit with eight in 10 losing their jobs; among the salaried class, 66% lost their jobs.
Further, 44% of salaried wage workers reported that they had not been paid their salaries or they had received reduced salaries during the lockdown.
Another key finding was that 59% of migrant workers working in urban areas did not have a ration card with them.
As a remedy to this problem, the surveyors suggested a slew of measures including universalisation of the PDS (public distribution system) to expand its reach, and implementation of expanded rations for at least the next six months.
The other prime solutions suggested are cash transfers equal to at least Rs 7000 per month for two months and opening up and expansion of MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act) and exploring ideas of urban employment guarantee schemes.