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78% of rural India stopped work during lockdown, says survey

Almost 80% of rural Indians saw their work coming to a standstill during the COVID-19 lockdown, with only 20% getting work under the Centre’s employment guarantee scheme, according to a survey conducted by Gaon Connection Insights and the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies about two months into the lockdown.

However, three out of four respondents said they were satisfied with the manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The survey, based on face-to-face interviews with 25,300 respondents, was carried out in 179 districts across 20 States and three Union Territories, according to a report on the key findings published by Gaon Connection on Monday.

With two out of every three Indians living in the villages, the survey sought to document the hardships faced by rural India after the pandemic struck.

More than 68% of respondents faced “high” to “very high” monetary difficulties, with 23% forced to borrow money during the lockdown. While 8% sold a valuable possession such as phone or watch, 7% mortgaged jewellery, and 5% sold or mortgaged land.

Over 70% of households reported a drop in total monthly household income compared to pre-lockdown months, including 75% of poor families.

There was some relief for ration card-owning households, with 71% saying they got wheat or rice from the government during the lockdown. Of the 17% who did not have ration cards, however, only 27% said they got grains from the government.

Health services were affected, with 38% having gone without necessary medicine or medical treatment often or sometimes during the lockdown. In Assam, as many as 87% of households said they did not receive the required treatment. Among households with pregnant women, 42% did not get pregnancy check-ups or vaccinations. In West Bengal and Odisha, that figure was as low as 29% and 33% respectively.

Employment was hit, with 78% respondents seeing their work largely coming to a standstill. Over 60% of skilled workers and manual labourers faced a complete shutdown. Among migrant workers who returned home during the lockdown, 23% migrant workers said they walked home from work sites. Over a third of migrant workers said they want to go back to the cities to work.

Only 20% of respondents said they got work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme during the lockdown. In Gujarat, only 2% of households got MGNREGA work, the lowest in the country, followed by Jammu and Kashmir-Ladakh, with 4%. At the other end of the spectrum, Chhattisgarh reported the highest percentage of such households at 70%, followed by Uttarakhand (65%) and Rajasthan (59%), said the report.

Agriculture is widely seen as the industry sector that has been most resilient during the pandemic. However, marketing of produce was disrupted. More than half the farmers managed to harvest their crops in time in the lockdown, but only a fourth could sell them on time. More than half of dairy and poultry farmers said they faced difficulty in taking their produce to the buyers, with 35% saying they did not get the right price for their produce.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2020 8:38:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/78-of-rural-india-stopped-work-during-lockdown-says-survey/article32321397.ece

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