How COVID-19 lockdown has affected India’s poor: Survey reveals appalling picture
According to the survey conducted among 5162 households in 47 districts and 12 States, a majority of households have limited stocks of food grown by them in the last Kharif or Rabi season and will be solely dependent on the PDS.
Impoverished, distressed and indebted families, increased workload on women, and migrant labourers returning with empty pockets: these are some of the new realities in the poverty-stricken belts of India, a recent survey suggests.
The survey “COVID induced Lockdown: How is Hinterland Coping” presents a bleak picture of India’s rural poor who have been adversely affected by a persistent lockdown to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was conducted between April 27 and May 2, 2020, by NGOs PRADAN, Action for Social Advancement, BAIF, Transform Rural India Foundation, Grameen Sahara, SAATHI-UP and The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) with research support of VikasAnvesh Foundation and Sambodhi.
According to the survey conducted among 5162 households in 47 districts and 12 States, a majority of households have limited stocks of food grown by them in the last Kharif or Rabi season and they will be solely dependent on the Public Distribution System (PDS). It further shows that more than one third did not have any surplus from last Kharif crop, and more than half could not depend on the Rabi produce. Around one third said that the Kharif produce would last only till May end.
The study also showed increased food insecurity among the respondents as months of peaking food insecurity in rain-fed regions (July and August) are around the corner. They have begun consuming fewer meals than usual. Nearly 30% of them are already in debt.
Early signs of distress have also been noted. Income has been adversely affected with half of the 23% of households selling milk reporting reduction in sales. More than 40% out of a total of 56% of households in poultry have also reported a reduction in sales. A drastic cut in income has also led to cut downs in discretionary expenses like marriages and other ceremonies. Nearly one-third of the respondents have reported that there is a possibility that children will drop out of schools.
With only a sixth of migrant workers making it back home, the workload on women has increased significantly. This includes more trips to fetching water and collecting fuelwood. More than a quarter of the surveyed households reported dependent members (young children, senior citizens, pregnant women, lactating mother)
Usually, migrant workers return home just before Khalif sowing with savings they made in cities. But this year most of them have returned without any savings.
In a press release, the NGOs have called for immediate involvement of the government. “We believe that Governments need to step in and ensure uninterrupted and universal coverage of the PDS to avoid acute food insecurity. The Governments also need to intervene by ensuring seeds supply as well as the provision of farm credit to the rural poor,” it said.