A survey was conducted by Azim Premji University with nine other civil society organizations and focused on the urban poor in Bangalore.
When India imposed its lockdown overnight, it hurt middle- and low-income communities, with day laborers, domestic workers and retail workers among the worst affected. The impact of this continued at least until October 2021, according to a study conducted by Azim Premji University with nine other civil society organizations. The study focused on the urban poor of Bangalore and surveyed nearly 3,000 households in 92 settlements spread across the city’s eight wards. Gaurav Gupta of the Center for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University said the purpose of the survey was to get a snapshot at different times of the impact of the COVID-induced lockdown, as macroeconomic indicators do not give not an adequate picture of how the informal economy fared.
The survey’s release event, which saw a roundtable among various stakeholders, said the people who run the city had been let down by the system, whether in terms of social control, economic security or health care.
The main findings of the study concerned income and employment, debt and food security, and the extent of government relief measures. The survey found that a majority of people suffered shock when the lockdown was imposed, where 41% of workers had no work and a further 21% had reduced incomes even in January, February 2021.
Even seven months after the first lockdown was lifted, unemployment remained above pre-COVID levels at 47%. This rate had only recovered in October 2021, when unemployment rates returned to pre-COVID levels of 22%. Even in October, 11% of workers had not recovered from job loss, and women were more affected than men at 15.8%.
In Bangalore, the existing poverty levels have increased due to COVID-19. According to the recommended national wage of Rs 119 per person per day according to the Anoop Satpathy committee, poverty rose to almost 80% before falling to pre-COVID levels of 67% in October 2021.
However, while unemployment has fallen, incomes have continued to be affected. Monthly incomes, which were low even before the pandemic (Rs 9,400 per month), fell further for many months (Rs 8,450 per month in January/February 2021). By October 2021, incomes had recovered in nominal terms (9,304 rupees per month) but adjusted for inflation continued to be below pre-COVID levels. “This means that surveyed households suffered almost 19 months of job losses and depressed incomes,” the survey said.
To compensate for this, people naturally turned to borrowing. 11% of survey respondents were forced to borrow or repay old loans, and 12% of households wanted to borrow but did not have access to these loans (higher among Muslims and OBCs). Households that did not borrow sold or pawned items they owned – jewelry being the most common at 97%. Many loans also relied on informal sources – such as local moneylenders, family or employers.
Due to reduced income, 40% also reported lower food intake
The study, which looked at the effectiveness of government programs during the COVID-19 period, found the public delivery system (PDS) to be the most effective. More than half of surveyed households that had BPL cards received extra cereal for every month since the second lockdown until the time of the survey in November 2021. About 32% of respondents said they had received extra cereal some month.
However, cash transfers have not proven effective in combating the effects of the pandemic. In the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, it was found that 78% of the respondents did not have a Jan Dhan account belonging to a woman. Of those who had an account, only 40% said they had received the full Rs 1,500 promised. The Karnataka government had also announced programs, but only 3% of respondents said they had received benefits for cash programs.
It’s not that cash transfers aren’t an important aspect. However, the lack of scope and insufficient amounts ensured that its goals could not be achieved, according to the survey.
A positive impact was observed in terms of midday meals and integrated child development services (ICDS).
The results indicate that the impacts of the pandemic on livelihoods persisted well beyond the shutdowns. Without increased support, factors such as the long period of declining incomes, declining food intake and debt/asset sales will continue to hamper households’ ability to recover from the pandemic, he said. -He suggests.
Amit Basole of Azim Premji University said the problems have persisted well beyond the closures and are long-term issues. Even if jobs come back, the debt burden and other effects (health, education, nutrition) are long-term, according to the survey. Survey makers suggested that cities need a program similar to MGNREGA, and also that creative ideas are needed to reach more households for cash assistance.