India Lockdown: The stark economic inequalities in India make the poor the toughest hit-in any calamity that strikes, the Lockdown within the wake of the spread of Coronavirus being no exception. As per a study by Oxfam International in 2017 about 1% of the population held 73% of the national wealth generation while the wealth of 670 million people, the poorest half Indian population, increased by just 1%. Then, an NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization) study in 2009-10 reported that the entire employment within the country was 465 million out of which only 28 million worked within the organized sector and therefore the remaining 437 million within the unorganized sector. Out of the unorganized sector workforce about 246 million worked within the agricultural sector, 44 million in construction, and therefore the rest in manufacturing and repair.
About 93% of the Indian workforce was engaged as self-employed and within the unorganized sector as per the Economic Survey of 2007-08. With growing urbanization, a world trend, the scenario changed only a touch over the past years and quite half the Indian workers still remains a floating population-trying to earn as agricultural or construction workers in their home terrain or migrating to the urban areas in search of higher livelihoods. Of course, there has been some impact in rescuing people out of poverty because of the pro-poor mass schemes undertaken by the govt of India within the past decade. As per another NSSO study around 30 million workers are constantly on the move migrating to varied states. Such seasonal migrants dominate the low-paying, hazardous and informal market jobs in key sectors in urban destinations like construction, hotel, textile, manufacturing, transportation, services and household jobs then on.
In 2017 the Economic Survey estimated that ‘the magnitude of inter-state migration in India was on the brink of 9 million annually between 2011 and 2016, while the Census-2011 pegged the entire number of internal migrants within the country (accounting for inter-state movement) at a staggering 139 million. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the most important source states, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal; the main destination states are Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu , Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.’
With no security of employment or guaranteed monthly salaries this huge chunk of the Indian population became the immediate sufferers the instant Lockdown was imposed on 25th March, 2020. Next to them were hit the self-employed chunk that has small-time traders, poultry farmers, shopkeepers, rickshaw pullers, auto-rickshaw drivers, cab drivers, delivery boys, vendors, scavengers and therefore the like. Then, the poorest of the poor-homeless starving people, beggars on the streets, mostly within the urban areas. These people were rendered jobless, shelter-less after lockdown because the employers, out of fear and lack of any employment agreements, threw them out, and that they could not afford to pay the rent for the accommodation a number of them managed within the cities. and that they desperately wanted to travel home-that is that the rural areas they migrated from. The heart-wrenching scenarios that followed are well-known to us because of the media campaigns. Many of them walked or cycled many miles range in the scorching heat-very few reaching home, most of them halted and quarantined on the way and a few of them dying on the roads. Even now, some destination-states are mulling the way to transport many desperate workers home rather than keeping them in temporary shelters indefinitely.
However, problems don’t end in only sending them home. within the first place they were the excess population there and migrated to other states for livelihoods. Now, after reaching home how are they getting to defend themselves and survive? the prevailing subsistence population there in terms of agricultural and construction laborers also are out of job. On a positive note we must mention the good humanitarian campaigns undertaken by state authorities, the police, the religious organizations and therefore the NGOs to offer them free rations, direct fund transfers during a very limited way still and to feed the hungry.
The Indian economy has been on the downswing within the preceding years with percentage reaching unprecedented highs. The COVID-19 lockdown is sure to make it worse and therefore the most challenging task ahead as in many developed countries too.
A persistent worry in India has been the shortage of an adequate financial package from the govt of India. Experts all round the globe have emphasized on making funds available to the poor also because the industries/trades. aside from the mere 500 bucks each transferred to the mass bank accounts which had witnessed piteously serpentine queues ahead the banks and a few money to the farmers’ accounts precious little has been done. With COVID-19 cases rising steadily and therefore the authorities facing a dilemma in lifting or extending lockdowns the uncertainty looms perniciously for the deprived many India.
Stark realities involving the super-rich and therefore the destitute in India are quite common to us for decades; but the Coronavirus crisis has exposed these realities to an unbearable extent. In a way, this is often fortunate, because the never-before focus is now on the poor of the country. The below-poverty-line citizens, the poor, the lower-income group people in India never had a lobby or an influence to figure for them apart from false election promises. Now, at least, the govt can not ignore them.