New Delhi: Two-thirds (67%) of 4,000 surveyed workers across 12 states reported having lost their jobs, as per an ongoing survey by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University. Urban India is more severely affected: 80% of urban workers and 57% rural workers are out of work, the preliminary findings show. And immediate relief measures are not in proportion to the severity of the situation.
Earnings have gone down across the spectrum, the survey conducted in collaboration with 10 civil society organisations found. For non-agricultural self-employed workers who are still employed, average weekly earnings fell by as much as 90%--from Rs 2,240 to Rs 218.
So far, as a first part of the ongoing survey, 4,000 workers were surveyed between April 13 and May 19, 2020, to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on employment, livelihoods and access to government relief schemes. The survey was conducted in 12 states--Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra (Pune), Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana and West Bengal.
Earnings have also gone down for casual and salaried workers. For casual workers who were still employed, average weekly earnings fell almost by 50% from Rs 940 in February to Rs 495. Similarly, half of all salaried workers (51%) saw either a reduction in their salary or received no salary.
As many as 75% of 688 surveyed land-holder farmers did not receive cash through the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme. As a relief measure for the economic stress induced by the lockdown, about 87 million farmers who are beneficiaries of the PM-Kisan and are entitled to a sum of Rs 6,000 annually, were to be given Rs 2,000 as a "front-loaded matter", the Union finance minister had announced on March 26.
About 88% of surveyed farmers could not sell their harvested produce at a regular price; 37% were unable to harvest their produce at all; 15% were unable to even sell their harvest; and about 37% sold their harvest at a reduced price.
About 60% of respondents in the survey were from rural areas. More than half were women. And 80% of the surveyed households earned less than Rs 10,000 per month.
Other than PM-Kisan payment, the government had announced several other relief measures for poor families through different schemes--three-months' advance pensions for senior citizens and the differently-abled; Rs 1,000 ex-gratia pension; free cooking gas cylinders for three months under Ujjwala scheme; and Rs 500 per month to women Jan Dhan Account holders.
About 91% of surveyed people in rural areas said they had received ration through the public distribution system (PDS), as had 80% of urban respondents, the survey found.
However, nearly 47% of rural and 64% of urban households did not receive any cash transfer announced under the relief measures.
In rural areas, only 36% of the eligible respondents received payments in their Jan Dhan accounts; 57% had no Jan Dhan account; and 7% who had a Jan Dhan account had not received payment, the survey found. Among urban respondents, about 23% received the payment and 71% did not have a Jan Dhan account, while about 5% who had an account did not get the payment.
"The immediate relief measures do not appear to be in proportion to the severity of the situation on the ground," the survey report said.
The team that has conducted the survey has suggested the following measures:
- Universalise PDS so that everyone--with or without a ration card, and at any location--can access subsidised foodgrain for at least the next six months.
- Provide cash transfers of at least Rs 7,000 per month for two months. This would also bring back demand in the economy.
- Open up MGNREGA (rural jobs programme) work sites in keeping with physical distancing norms.
(Tripathi is an IndiaSpend reporting fellow.)