During pandemic 71% lost their jobs, of which 34% were women, 59% borrowed money to survive, says new survey
Conducted by Conference Development Office (CDO), Indian Social Institute and Lok Manch to understand and assess the impact of COVID-19 in rural India, the survey was conducted across 12 states
During the pandemic, 71% said they lost their livelihood due to Covid-19 disruptions and 34% of them were women. A majority of those who lost their job belonged to either Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe category, with 54% of them claiming loss of livelihood during the pandemic, revealed a new survey.
Conducted by Conference Development Office (CDO), Indian Social Institute and Lok Manch to understand and assess the impact of COVID-19 in rural India, the survey conducted across 12 states revealed that 59% of the respondents borrowed money for survival during this pandemic. The people who borrowed money were predominantly from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
The study revealed that though many had lost jobs as a result of the pandemic, several of them were not able to access jobs available through MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). Though 59% of the people stated that they have the MGNREGA card, a large majority of them either didn’t get work or got less than 25 days of work against the 100 days of work guaranteed by the Act. At least 21% of MGNREGA card holders did not get work, 14% got less than 25 days of work.
At least 44% of the respondents said the schemes such as MGNREGA and Public Distribution System (PDS) were important to minimise the impact of Covid-19 among the rural population and 51% of the stakeholders confirmed that social security schemes were very important for peoples’ welfare during the pandemic.
As the employment situation continues to be dismal in the country, 2.61 crore households availed work under the scheme in May 2022. This was higher than the number of households who obtained work through MNREGA during the same period last year (2.22 crore in May 2021) and is higher than May 2021 level (2.1 crore households) too. According to government data, 21 states and union territories observed an increase in households availing work under the scheme. The work provided to households under MNREGA was 9.9% higher in May, compared to May 2021, and 31.2% more than those who used the scheme in April.
Of those who were affected by Covid-19, only 34% stated that the inadequacies in the public health facilities forced them to visit private health facilities. Most of these respondents were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The study revealed that 32% of the respondents spent above Rs 5,000 on COVID-19 related treatment, 25% spent above Rs 10,000 on COVID-19 related treatment in rural India.
When 77% of the ASHA workers were interviewed, they testified that the rural population was not able to bear the expenses for the treatment of COVID-19. At least, 45% said that they had borrowed money for COVID-19 related treatment. Even this amount, seemingly low, would have put a financial strain on the rural population, adding further burden into their meagre incomes. Only 11% of the respondents had availed health insurance, and they were predominantly from states such as Chhattisgarh and Kerala.
The research study was conducted in 12 states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal – with 5,210 samples.
A majority of the respondents were landless labourers (46%), followed by farmers (34%), private employees (9%) and home makers (5%). The landless labourers were dominantly present in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat and Kerala, constituting 79% of the total landless labourers. A vast majority of the farmers were from the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, totalling 58% of the total farmers. The respondents were predominantly poor, earning less than Rs 3,000 a month. Those earning less than Rs 5,000 a month constituted a huge 83% of the respondents.
Though the central government had issued guidelines during the pandemic in March 2020 advising the states to provide hot cooked meals or corresponding allowances to all eligible children, the study showed that the 56% of the respondents said that that their children didn’t receive midday meals through the school during Covid-19. The ground reality has revealed that the benefits of the Centre’s guidelines did not reach a considerable share of beneficiaries. The pandemic had also disrupted other welfare schemes of the government, including the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme.
The percentage of those who didn’t get midday meals through the schools was more in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Adding to this, 33% said that PDS was important for their family and 25% said it was very important for their family during the COVID-19.
The survey has suggested that more attention should be paid towards providing better public health care to the rural population, in addition to extending more support to the school-going children to ensure that they don’t drop out of school. The government should strengthen social security schemes like MGNREGA and PDS to benefit the most disadvantaged sections of people in rural India. These schemes provided a ‘safety net’ to the rural poor, owing to more demand caused by the increased unemployment.