Covid-19’s Impact on Urban Poor


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    According to a recent report by Hunger Watch, Covid-19 has impacted the urban poor in India more than the rural poor.

    • Hunger Watch is a loose collection of social groups and movements, which came together for a periodic study of the actual status of hunger, food access and livelihood security among various disadvantaged populations in the wake of the nation-wide lockdowns starting from March 2020.
    • This is the first report of the collective, based on interviews with 3,994 households across 11 states.
    • The data was collected in October 2020 and compared with pre-lockdown levels.

    Major Findings

    • Differences in Urban-Rural Poor: The report showed that on average, urban respondents reported a 15 percentage point worse condition than their rural counterparts across all important parameters.
      • 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.
      • Consumption of Grains and Pulses: It was at least 12 percentage points lower for urban respondents.
      • Decline in Nutritional Quality and Quantity: Urban respondents saw more decline in nutritional quality and quantity as compared to the rural ones.
      • Borrowing Money for Food: Around 54 per cent urban respondents had to borrow money which was 16 per cent lower for rural respondents.
      • Skipped Meals: Around 45 per cent rural respondents had to skip a meal in October 2020 whereas nearly 66 per cent of the urban respondents had to do so in the same month.
      • Coverage of Social Security Schemes: It had a relatively better coverage among the rural poor.
        • Rural areas had better access to Public Distribution System (PDS) rations.
        • A larger number of urban area households did not have access to Ration Cards.
    • Hunger and Food Insecurity
      • Overall, levels of hunger and food insecurity remained high, with less hope of improvements without specific measures for employment opportunities as well as food support.
      • There is a 10 percentage point increase in the number of people who had to skip some meal in the month preceding the survey period.
        • This happened even when India had a record food grain production at 296.65 million tonnes in the 2019-20 crop year (July-June).
    • Socially Vulnerable Groups
      • Things were far worse for socially vulnerable groups such as households headed by single women, households with people having disabilities, transgender people and old persons without caregivers.
      • 58 percent of the older people without caregivers had to go to sleep at night sometimes without a meal.
      • Similar things happened to 56 per cent of households headed by single women and 44 per cent of households with disabled persons.
    • Early Ending of Government Schemes
      • The additional support provided under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) as well as the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, ended in October 2020, which led to worsening of the situation.
    • In Conjunction with National Family Health Survey-5
      • The figures are alarming as 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.
    • Increasing Labour Force
      • Food insecurity has prompted more people to enter the labour force with a staggering 55 per cent increase in the respondents.
      • There was also a silent rise in child labour as well.
    • Deeping Economic Crisis
      • The report also pointed out that 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.
    • Recommendations
      • Special attention on social protection measures
      • Schemes for provision of subsidised food
      • Employment guarantee in urban areas.
      • Announcement of urban employment programme in budgets.

    Public Distribution System

    • It is an Indian food security system for management of food scarcity through distribution at affordable prices.
    • It was established under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
    • It is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and the State Governments.
      • The Central Government, through Food Corporation of India (FCI), purchases, stores, transports and allocates food grains to States.
      • The States identify eligible families, issue Ration Cards and supervise functioning of Fair Price Shops (FPSs) etc.
    • Currently, wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene are allocated to the States/UTs for distribution and a few of them also distribute additional items like pulses, edible oils, iodized salt, spices, etc.
    • Ration Card
      • It is a document issued under an order or authority of the State Governments, as per the PDS, for the purchase of essential commodities from fair price shops.
      • It depends on the number of members in a family and the financial status of the applicant.

    National Family Health Survey

    • It is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • NFHS-5 is the recent round of the survey to bring out data on emerging health and family welfare issues.
    • Earlier NFHS rounds were carried out in 1992-93 (NFHS-1), 1998-99 (NFHS-2), 2005-06 (NFHS-3) and in 2015-16 (NFHS-4).
    • Objectives: 
    • The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) Mumbai is the nodal agency for providing coordination and technical guidance for the survey.
      • It collaborates with a number of Field Organizations (FO) for survey implementation.
    • Twin Objectives
      • To provide essential data on health and family welfare for policy and programme purposes.
      • To provide information on important emerging health and family welfare issues.
    • NFHS collects information of the following
      • Fertility
      • Maternal and Child Health
      • Reproductive Health
      • Nutrition
      • Anaemia
      • Infant and Child Mortality
      • Family Planning

    Source: DTE