Assessing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the socio-economic situation of vulnerable populations through community-based monitoring
The Institute for Human Development, New Delhi, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India, released this report in October 2021. It analyses the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on marginalised populations in different parts of India. The report aimed to provide data for improved policy making targeted to reduce inequalities after the pandemic.
The data collection for this report was carried out with the help of civil society organisations and their network of volunteers, in four phases from June to December 2020. It covered more than 20,000 households in 12 rural and urban districts across the seven states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. The sample households largely consisted of casual workers with some salaried workers and unemployed people. Additionally, more than 50 per cent of the families belonged to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The 98-page report is divided into eight chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Design and Methodology (Chapter 2); Major Findings: Economic condition (Chapter 3); Major Findings: Health and Nutrition (Chapter 4); Major Findings: Education (Chapter 5); Major Findings: Child Protection and Gender-based Protection (Chapter 6); Major Findings: Local Governance (Chapter 7); and Conclusions (Chapter 8).
Joblessness peaked in both urban and rural areas during June-July with 26 per cent and 20 per cent of respondents respectively, being unemployed. The numbers fell below unemployment rates recorded pre-lockdown by December, the report notes. However, the daily wages of casual workers were still lower than before the lockdown, as reported by 75 per cent of the urban and 60 per cent of the rural respondents.
Awareness regarding the Covid-19 vaccine was high among respondents, the report states. Media (television, radio and newspaper) were trusted modes of information. These were followed by health workers such as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and anganwadi workers.
In December 2020, 76 per cent of respondents from rural areas and 70 per cent from urban areas reported that, in the previous month, they had received food items they were entitled to from ration shops. However, only 80 per cent of community volunteers (CVs) conducting surveys recorded distribution of wheat and rice and 60 per cent recorded distribution of pulses. Distribution of sugar (43 per cent), edible oil (27 per cent) and fortified salt (19 per cent) was reported by even fewer volunteers.
About 85 per cent of CVs reported that people were able to receive treatment in healthcare facilities during August-September 2020. Proper patient care and treatment in government facilities was also reported by 69 per cent and 56 per cent CVs in rural and urban areas respectively.
The report finds that there was limited access to major social protection and welfare schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. While many respondents were aware of the schemes, only around 27 per cent in urban areas and 35-40 per cent in rural areas could access them, the CVs reported.
Among houses that had children aged 6-18 years, around 20 per cent in rural areas and 16 per cent in urban areas had children who were either doing paid work or were looking for paid work. The figures were higher in female-headed households (28.2 per cent in rural areas and 20.6 per cent in urban areas) than in male-headed households (19.6 per cent in rural areas and 14.7 per cent in urban areas).
In October-November 2020, 28 per cent of rural and 11 per cent of urban parents reported that their kids did not attend online classes even though their schools were providing them.
The main reasons cited for not attending online classes were a lack of access to smartphones, laptops and televisions, unavailability of internet, lack of digital skill, or that the children were engaged in household chores or unpaid work. As many as 69 per cent of respondent mothers from rural areas and 76 per cent from urban areas reported not having an internet connection, states the report.
The report found an increase in incidents of violence against women and children. As many as 44 per cent CVs in rural areas and 25 per cent CVs in urban areas reported such a rise in August-September 2020.
According to the report, gram panchayats were active in awareness-building and communicated information on use of masks, social distancing and good sanitation practices. They were also involved in immunisation drives and distribution of food. However, community participation in gram panchayat activities was low, the report notes, with very few people attending meetings.
Focus and Factoids by Aravind M.
PARI Library’s health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.
Institute for Human Development, New Delhi and UNICEF India