Home/ News / India/  Lockdown impact: Rural survey paints a grim picture

New Delhi: Borrowing money to run households; wage work coming to a standstill; farmers unable to sell their harvest on time and at a fair price; a drop in income for most families; yet, an overwhelming support for Narendra Modi-led federal government’s management of the covid-19 crisis. These are some of the major findings of a survey of 25,300 respondents from 23 states and union territories on the impact of the stringent lockdown in rural India, enforced to control the spread of covid-19 infections.

Over 68% of rural Indians were in a monetary crisis while 78% found work coming to a complete standstill, found ‘The Rural Report’ prepared by the news portal Gaon Connection and the Delhi based Centre for Study of Developing Societies. The findings were based on face-to-face interviews with respondents in 179 districts across India.

According to the survey results, 23% of the respondents had to borrow money to manage their household, while 8% had to sell a valuable possession like a mobile phone or a watch. Close to a fourth of the migrant workers who fled cities to escape job loss and the pandemic, said they had to walk back home, the survey found. 28% of the migrant workers said they were not paid for the work they had done in cities.

Over a third of the returning migrants were eager to get back to cities for work; not surprising, since only a fifth had found work under the rural jobs scheme which guarantees 100 days of work to each family.

According to the report, about 71% rural households reported a drop in income with the poor being the hardest hit. Of the 17% of economically poor households who did not have ration cards to access highly subsidized food grains, only 27% said they received wheat or rice from the government.

On the hunger situation, the survey found that about 35% families went without food the whole day either many times or sometimes, 38% skipped an entire meal in a day several times or sometimes, and 46% reduced a few items from their meal often or sometimes.

The survey also found that 56% dairy and poultry farmers faced difficulties in taking their produce to the market, while 35% said they did not receive a fair price. More than half the farmers managed to harvest their crops in time during the lockdown, but only a fourth could sell them on time.

Despite the difficulties, 74% of the respondents said they were satisfied with the government’s management of the pandemic. Even a large majority, over two-thirds of returned workers did not grudge the government’s handling of the migrant crisis.

Overall, the survey revealed an economic scenario that is starkly different from the narrative that rural areas faced minimal disruption due to the lockdown and the economy is bouncing back following a robust winter harvest and financial support from a clutch of government schemes. From manufacturers of food items to those selling motorcycles have pinned their hopes on rural demand to revive sales during a pandemicinduced recession.

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Updated: 10 Aug 2020, 03:13 PM IST
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