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NGO effort to quell hunger better than govt, religious trusts: German-funded survey

Counterview Desk
A survey by the Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi Research Group and the Karwan-e-Mohabbat campaign undertaken to address key questions of how India’s labouring classes have had to cope with the strictest lockdown the world between March 25 and May 31, has talked of “continued humanitarian crisis of joblessness, intense food insecurity and massive dislocation of workers.”
Based on interviews with workers reached out for food support by Karwan-e-Mohabbat volunteers of the Aman Biradari Trust during the relief work extended in Delhi-NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, the survey report has been supported by the Rosa Luxemberg-Stitung, a transnational alternative policy group and educational institution centred in Germany.
The report is titled, "Labouring Lives: Hunger, Precarity and Despair amid Lockdown". It compiles data of 1,405 persons extensively interviewed, mostly on telephone, between May 25 and June 10.

Excerpts:

Hunger has taken an epidemic proportion in this pandemic. Only 38.9% (547) said that they never went completely out of food during the lockdown. 29.9% (420) reported they occasionally went out of food, that is they had no food intermittently for 1-2 days. 20.5% (288) people said they frequently went out of food for 4-7 days during the period of lockdown and 150 people (10.7%) said, they were out of food for more than 7 days facing an extreme hunger situation.
The ones who never were out of food, reported that they have diminished their intake and were often having one meal in a day. As Fig 12 shows, 21.8% (119 respondents) said they were skipping meals, while 49.5% reported that they were eating less within the day. At least 28 people (5.1%) reported that parents were skipping meals and they were only providing food for their children.
If one takes a cursory glance at the caste and religion divide of the sample on the question of hunger, the data is intriguing. It shows hunger is pervasive among all communities and cuts across caste. However, taking a closer look we can find that the advantaged caste Hindus have suffered less in terms of going occasionally or frequently hungry. In the case extreme hunger also, the advantaged caste Hindus are relatively better off than the conditions of OBC/SC/ST or Muslims.
When it comes to income, there appears to be no linear relationship between income groups and degree of hunger. However, as may be expected, earnings above Rs 15000 a month did make a difference to the hunger situation. People with monthly wage earning job were better off on the hunger situation than workers who were engaged in self-employment and daily wage work.
The casual labourers, primarily located away from home went hungry more often; their proportion in extreme situations of hunger was also more. Though casual labourers earned more than self-employed and monthly wage earners among our respondents (as shown in earlier section), but it was always a trade off with stability which seems to make a difference to the hunger situation.
The casual labourers noted that they hardly had any savings and therefore their situation started deteriorating as soon as the lockdown was implemented and they went out of work. They were much more dependent on ration or cooked foods provided by governmental and non-governmental sources and were in no position to buy food on their own as they had almost no savings. The self-employed workers, too, have no other resources to fall back on, other than their own. 
Anecdotally, people often assumed that supplies were being sourced from government, even when these were being distributed by NGOs
The situation of hunger is clearly less severe among the non-migrants, and worse among the inter-state and intra-state migrants. But between the latter two categories, the intra-state migrants are worse off compared to the inter-state migrants. Though the job-loss situation and the associated uncertainties were the worst in case of the inter-state migrants their income levels however were higher.
Notably, the differences in the job-loss status are quite muted across groups as there is a widespread loss everywhere. Also, the incidence of hunger had close relationship between the nature of support by way of distribution of cooked food and dry-ration in the respective areas, as in most cases, the personal savings of the workers, save probably those in rural areas, had mostly run out after 45 days of the lock down, which is when the survey was conducted.
As we look at the rural-urban divide on hunger, the hunger situation seems better in semi-urban areas. A similar pattern was observed in case of job-loss. The mix of rural and urban seem to be providing a more resilient base in the crisis situation. The rural and urban areas on the other hand yielded similar responses to extreme hunger, as well as on the question of never going hungry. It indicates that the gross situation in lockdown is not much different in cities and villages. That further can imply that the reverse migration of workers that are taking place may add immense pressure on the countryside to cope with the increased demands.
There were workers who received ration only once from the government in the entire period of the lockdown. Cooked food was distributed in many cities, but availing them was a problem due to long queues, crowds, and harassment by police. While the rich and middle classes stocked, the poor were faced with abject hunger even as grains have been rotting at government stockpiles.
The source of food to quell hunger was traced maximum to NGOs (43.3%), followed by government initiatives (38.7%) and also by religious and community organizations which constitute 19.2%. Anecdotally, people often assumed that supplies were being sourced from government, even when these were being distributed by NGOs, so the proportion of food supplied by government maybe even lower.Maximum respondents i.e. 646 (46%), got support from any one source only, while 26.3% (369 respondents) got support from two sources.
A much smaller section 2.9% said they have received support from three sources, while just three respondents said they have received support from at least four different forces. A substantial section of 24.6% i.e. 346, respondents reported that they have not received food support from any source at all. 46% of respondents of received support from only one source. If the NGOs and religious organisations had not stepped in, life during lockdown would have been far more testing.

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