Giving Compass’ Take:
• Shouvik Mitra, writing for India Development Review, discusses the impact of COVID-19 on rural India and the measures that the government needs to take to address the fallout of the pandemic.
• What is the role of donors to partner with local governments to provide resources and support?
• Read more about how India’s social sector is responding to the effects of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire nation to a halt. Health officials and medical professionals are struggling with containing the disease, and testing and treating affected people. Last night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week, nation-wide, complete lockdown to contain the spread of this virus, as the number of reported positive cases in India crossed 500.
Slowed down economic activity in urban areas has an effect on rural areas as well. Numerous studies and experience from the field indicate that a significant proportion of rural household incomes comes from migration and daily-wage labourers. The informal industry in cities being badly affected has resulted in loss of rural income. What’s more, massive layoffs and lack of relief measures are pushing migrants to return to their villages, which would increase the risk of the spread of the virus.
However, proactive measures are needed on the part of the government and civil society to safeguard rural populations from the economic fallout of this pandemic. These could include:
- Continuing the supply chain of midday meals and Anganwadi meals, and delivering them to the families’ doorsteps (like Kerala has done), so that children and pregnant mothers get at least one meal a day.
- Supplying free ration to rural households through the public distribution system.
- Supporting rural households with 30-50 days’ worth of labour wages, from the MGNREGA budget.
- Leveraging the SHG network and ASHA workers to disseminate IEC material.
- Extending Village Organisations (VOs) to provide soft loans to households that lose wage days and/or incur COVID-19-related health expenses—State Rural Livelihood Missions may consider extending the use of the Vulnerability Reduction Fund (VRF) to the VOs for this purpose.
- Rescheduling bank loan repayment cycles for SHGs and individual agricultural debtors.
Read the full article about impact of COVID-19 on rural India by Shouvik Mitra at India Development Review.
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