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Social Justice

Effect of Covid on Urban and Rural Poor

  • 08 May 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, a report by Hunger Watch claimed that Covid-19 has left the urban poor in India poorer, more hungry and with less nutrition than their rural counterparts.

Key Points

  • Economic Effect:
    • The food insecurity has prompted more people to enter the labour force (55% increase in the labour force among the respondents).
    • The economic crisis was deepening as people who lost their jobs were yet to find replacements and little had been accomplished after the lockdown for the revival of livelihoods in the informal sector.
    • Incomes reduced by half or a quarter for more than half the urban respondents while it was a little over one-third for rural respondents.
  • Public Distribution System & Social Sector Scheme Coverage:
    • A large section of rural residents could cushion the blow of pandemic-driven economic disruption due to foodgrain via the Public Distribution System (PDS). The urban poor’s access to such ration, however, was minimal.
    • The social security schemes also had relatively better coverage among the rural poor as rural areas had better access to PDS rations.
    • A larger proportion of households in urban areas did not have access to ration cards.
  • Nutrition and Hunger:
    • A decline in nutritional quality and quantity was more among the urban respondents as was the need to borrow money for buying food.
    • Overall, levels of hunger and food insecurity remained high, with little hope of the situation improving without measures specifically aimed at providing employment opportunities as well as food support.
    • Even when India had a record food grain production at 296.65 million tonnes in the 2019-20 crop year (July-June), beating the target of 291.1 million tonnes and 4% higher than 2018-19, the net of hunger became more widespread as more people had to start skipping some meals in a day.
    • Things were much worse for socially vulnerable groups such as households headed by single women, households with people having disabilities, transgender people and old persons without caregivers.
  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data:
    • The figures in the Hunger Watch report are alarming, especially when seen in conjunction with the recent rounds of NFHS data.
    • The NFHS data has shown either a worsening or stagnation in malnutrition outcomes such as prevalence of stunting and wasting among children and high levels of anaemia among women and children.
  • Government Initiatives to Mitigate the Effects of Covid:

Way Forward

  • Since the majority of the poor already had low incomes to begin with, a further reduction in household income is akin to taking a bullet train to hunger. This calls for special attention on social protection measures including schemes for provision of subsidised food and employment guarantee in urban areas.

Source: DTE

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