NEW DELHI; Loss of income and livelihood are among the top concerns for rural communities struggling to cope with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, according to a new study conducted across 10 states.
The study conducted by the Indian School of Development Management (ISDM) and IIMPACT, an NGO, is based on a survey conducted in over 4800 households in over 900 villages in Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Jharkhand.
According to the study titled "Emerging Challenges in the post-COVID context", the loss of income and livelihoods, availability of food and drinking water, and impact on children's education have emerged as the top immediate concerns of communities in Rural India during the pandemic and lockdown phase of 2020.
"While only 17 per cent could retain their job or primary source of income during the lockdown, 96 per cent of households surveyed have not been able to build resilience for sustenance beyond 4 months. At least 15 per cent of the households identified reverse migration as one of the key issues that are likely to disrupt the socio-economic fabric," the study said.
"Out of every 10 households, four households were unable to sustain themselves even for a month without external support and almost every 3rd graduate from the rural communities in these states worked as domestic help, daily wage labour/migrant labour," it added.
The study has recommended policy instruments be designed that address challenges associated with increased informalisation and precarity of jobs across skill categories in rural India while pressing for the need to revisit the universal employment guarantee scheme to account for variable skill levels and capabilities of the rural population given the current context of education and skill development initiatives.
Aruna Pandey, Director- Research and Body of Knowledge, ISDM, said "while the universal employment guarantee scheme and the Skill India initiatives have been game-changers in India's story of enabling employment opportunities for its young population, there is an imminent need to integrate such efforts with appropriate policy instruments that will bridge the deep schism and irregularities between the availability of appropriate employment opportunities and level of education of young people in rural India".
"Data from the report indicates that almost every third graduate from rural communities interviewed, worked as domestic help or daily wage labour, leading to under-utilisation of their skills and capabilities and exposing them to tangible vulnerabilities associated with the informality of such jobs," Pandey said.
A nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Throwing economic activities out of gear, the lockdown rendered many homeless and out of money, beginning an exodus of migrants to their home states.