Bengaluru: A telephonic survey of 3,121 households in more than 50 cities in India has revealed that more than 50% of the respondents are worried about losing work and earnings. Eight of 10 want to resume their work after the end of the lockdown, the survey by Impact and Policy Research Institute’s (IMPRI) has found.

Some key policy suggestions that came out in an online discussion of the findings:

  • India needs a new urban agenda to focus on dynamic urban planning processes and empowerment of city governments.
  • India must institute an urban job assurance programme as a longer-term policy option to address the looming economic crisis.

Although 80% of the workers want to resume work and job losses may be a “temporary phenomenon”, much will depend on how the government, business and people respond, an IMPRI press release said May 28, 2020.

India’s third extension of the COVID-19 lockdown is set to end on May 31. Despite more than two months of lockdown and conditional relaxations, India has now reported more than 170,000 COVID-19 cases, of which 80% or 140,153 cases have been reported in May (as of May 30) alone.

The lockdown has pushed India’s economic growth into “negative territory” and impacted the livelihood of millions of migrant workers, many of whom have returned to their home states.

“The study findings show that [the] urban informal worker was mainly engaged in low paid casual daily wage work and self-employment activities such as street vendors, and only a few involved in salaried jobs,” said Balwant Mehta and Simi Mehta, the study coordinators from IMPRI.

The government’s Rs 1.7 lakh crore ($22.4 billion) allocation under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana will “provide intermittent relief to the poor”, but per person allocation is low, said Arjun Kumar, director, IMPRI.

Many respondents reported that they were not eligible for the programmes introduced by the government, the survey revealed There is a need to create “extremely localised solutions for catering to the needs of the citymakers [migrant workers]”, said Wendy Olsen, professor of socio-economics, University of Manchester, during the discussion.

“A robust local system is vital, and there is no other way of delivering benefits successfully,” Varun Aggarwal, founder of India Migration Now, had told IndiaSpend earlier. Local governments are needed for successfully delivering government schemes and programmes, he added.

While the IMPRI study noted that 60% of respondents reported unawareness and congestion as the main constraints to ensuring social distancing and hygiene practices, health insurance, basic amenities, coordination between local governments are also needed, Olsen said.

(Paliath is an analyst at IndiaSpend.)