Skip to main content

'We're daily wagers, how will it be okay? Modi isn't going to come home, feed us'

Counterview Desk
A telephonic survey carried out by a group of students and volunteers in the rural areas of six states on the current lockdown situation has found that while there is high awareness about the Covid-19, including its symptoms, how it spreads, and the precautions against its transmission, the shutdown of all public services has had “a negative impact on peoples’ life”, resulting in resulting “insecurity”, causing a lot of “stress.” 
While the survey found isolated cases when respondents reported not eating full meals in order to save (or stretch) their limited food supplies, with some regretting that they had food stocks for less than a week, 15% said they have food for a month, and only another 15% said they had enough for the next 2-3 months.

Text:

A short telephonic survey* was conducted with respondents from rural Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh to learn about their awareness of COVID-19, access to food security and experience of the lockdown. The survey took place in two phases: on March 26-31 and April 4-11, when we spoke with 87 and 40 respondents respectively. The second phase included questions about food rations under the public distribution system (PDS).
Overall, there is fairly widespread awareness about the basics of COVID-19 - its symptoms, how it spreads, and precautions against its transmission. Most respondents are even taking simple precautions to protect themselves and others. However, the promise of doubling foodgrain rations under the public distribution system (PDS) along with providing some dal is yet to be fulfilled for most.
The use of Aadhaar-Based-Biometric-Authentication (ABBA) for PDS, whereby people have to authenticate their fingerprints on a common machine, is also continuing in several states. The halting of economic activity during the lockdown has resulted in a steep fall in earnings for many households.
The shutdown of all other public services has also had a negative impact on peoples’ life. The resulting insecurity and other hardships of the lockdown are causing a lot of stress. One respondent summed up his current situation: “There is fear if you stay at home you'll starve; if you leave the house, you'll get Corona and die”.

Awareness about COVID 19

Most of the respondents were aware of COVID-19. According to 85 respondents, the disease spreads through contact or being in close proximity with people, especially those infected with the virus. Some also implied that the virus was air borne and spreads through sneezing or coughing. The most commonly cited symptoms of COVID 19 include cold, cough, fever and throat ache. Some respondents also mentioned difficulty in breathing, shivering, vomiting and fatigue.
More than two-thirds of the respondents suggested staying at home or avoiding contact with people as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. Other suggestions include covering the mouth, not touching the face, washing hands and maintaining hygiene. Most respondents covered their face while stepping out. People are washing their hands, but with widely varying frequency.
In the second Phase, some people from Chhattisgarh, HP, Odisha, MP and UP reported that they still had to use ABBA to authenticate their identities to access their PDS entitlements. The use of a common fingerprint authenticating machine is troubling as it can increase the possibility of COVID-19 transmission and undermines the social distancing efforts.

Food security

At the time of the survey, at least two respondents reported not eating full meals in order to save (or stretch) their limited food supplies. At least eight households had food stocks for less than a week. Fifteen per cent of the respondents had food for a month at the most and another 15 percent (mainly in Himachal Pradesh) had enough for the next 2-3 months.
Most of the other respondents did not give an estimate of how long their current food stock would last. However, many expressed concerns about access to vegetables, oil and spices, even if they had stocks of grains or rice.
The telephonic survey was conducted in rural Chhattisgarh, HP, Jharkhand, MP, Odisha and UP on  food security, lockdown impact
There are wide variations in access to PDS rations across the states for the months of March and April. Even till the last week of March, at least some ration cardholders in every state had not received their ration for the month. The situation seems to be worse in Gujarat, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Ration distribution for April has begun in most states, but only some reported getting two months’ quota. Also, cardholders are yet to get the 1 kg dal promised by the central government. Even during the lockdown, access to PDS rations remains largely limited to those with a ration card.

Other hardships due to the lockdown

The lockdown has taken a heavy economic toll on people. At least half the respondents clearly stated that their household had experienced a fall in earnings since the lockdown. Even during the second phase survey, many respondents reported that they could not go to work in the fields, find daily-wage work or carry out their self-employment activities.
In Surguja, Chhattisgarh, a daily earner said he was scared of stepping out because he had heard that the police were beating people. This was a common theme, a fear which was repeated in other places too. As one respondent said, "We are daily wagers, how will it be okay? Modi isn't going to come home and feed me".
Some farmers who were able to go to the fields expressed concerns about being able to sell their produce and harvest before it rotted. One person in Odisha told us they were not able to sell vegetables from their fields because of the lack of transport, and respondents in both Gujarat and MP reported that they were not able to sell their harvested grain.
Apart from daily wagers whose earnings have evaporated, other persons’ incomes have also been seriously affected. For example, one person told us that their salon had been closed, and in HP, where households are generally much better off, the lack of tourists has affected the incomes of households who ply taxis, arrange paragliding and homestays.
Some respondents were either stuck in cities away from their village or had family members in that situation. Some men and women are stuck away from their family and spouses, either because of work or because they were at their natal homes.
One person from MP, currently staying in Maharashtra, said he has been allowed to stay by the company malik, but doesn't know if he's going to be paid for the days of closure; another one in Maharashtra (from UP) expressed worries about paying rent and rising prices.
The shutdown in public services has also caused a lot of difficulties. One respondent from HP told us that she was finding it hard to take her sick child to a doctor, because of the lack of public transport and taxis. One respondent told us that her husband had been mistreated by the police when he went to the market to buy medicines.
One respondent was not able to get to the bank, and another respondent told us that when she went to the bank with her passbook to get Rs. 1000, she was told that withdrawing money wouldn't be possible.
Many admitted to feeling distressed, fearful and anxious due to their economic insecurity, the inability to step outside the house and the lack of community life. One woman told us that she was facing domestic violence during the lockdown. In Odisha, one respondent said that, "staying at home with family is a problem in itself”.
---
*The phone numbers were collected during the Jaccha-Baccha Survey (JABS), a survey of pregnant and nursing women in rural India (randomly selected among those registered at the local anganwadi) conducted in June 2019. We contacted as many as possible of the JABS respondents who had shared their phone number (in some cases, their husband answered the questions). 
Within the JABS sample, the respondents are likely to belong to relatively better-off households, since the poorest may not have a phone. The calls were made by students and other volunteers: Aditi Dey, Alok Anand, Anmol Somanchi, Ankita Aggarwal, Bhakti Ghatge, Natasha Trivedi, Paroma Bhat, Reetika Khera, Ria Singh Sawhney, Shailja Tandon and Sweta Dash.

Comments

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Joblessness, saffronisation, corporatisation of education: BJP 'squarely responsible'

Counterview Desk  In an open appeal to youth and students across India, several student and youth organizations from across India have said that the ruling party is squarely accountable for the issues concerning the students and the youth, including expensive education and extensive joblessness.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Following the 3000-year old Pharaoh legacy? Poll-eve Surya tilak on Ram Lalla statue

By Sukla Sen  Located at a site called Abu Simbel in Nubia, Upper Egypt, the eponymous rock temples were created in 1244 BCE, under the orders of Pharaoh Ramesses II (1303-1213 BC)... Ramesses II was fond of showcasing his achievements. It was this desire to brag about his victory that led to the planning and eventual construction of the temples (interestingly, historians say that the Battle of Qadesh actually ended in a draw based on the depicted story -- not quite the definitive victory Ramesses II was making it out to be).

India's "welcome" proposal to impose sin tax on aerated drinks is part of to fight growing sugar consumption

By Amit Srivastava* A proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages like tobacco in India has been welcomed by public health advocates. The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks is part of the recommendations made by India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the parliament of India.