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India’s poverty crisis worsened amidst the pandemic

The very first case of Covid-19 that was reported in India was on January 27, 2020 and on March 11 World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic. The whole world has to fight against an enemy that is not even visible, endangering millions of lives.

Most of the population is involved in agriculture or informal sectors where job security is not present nor is any type of health cover given. These factors make Indian population insecure and hard to earn living in these times.

Due to sudden increase in the number of covid-19 cases, a nationwide lockdown was imposed to contain the virus. All the activities came to a halt leaving daily wage labourers and other unskilled workers on streets. These workers generally come to urban areas from backward villages in search of manual labour and have no savings to rely on. Back in their village, their family members depend on their earnings to fill their empty stomachs. Most of the employers of these labourers denied giving them their wage or even advances during the lockdown and laid them off to cut on their costs. Even the middle income groups used up all their savings and were struggling to keep their heads above the water.

We have to understand that the possibility of these pandemics and epidemics will be high owing to the damage we have done to our mother earth and other factors and the poor section of the society is the most vulnerable section and is the worst hit section because of the poor health facilities in their reach, low literacy levels, lack of awareness and many such factors.

A research by Pew Research Center showed that India had substantial effect of the pandemic. People in higher income group declined and that added to below poverty line grew substantially, while China with almost same population as India was resilient and did not have stark impact as in India. The data highlights shocking numbers of increase by 75 million in the category of poor in India. These numbers leave onto us to reflect upon and to face the cruel realities of a weak healthcare system and rising inequalities.

Source – PEW Research center

Source – PEW Research center

Source – PEW Research center

Just as the restrictions were being lifted an even deadlier second wave of the pandemic hit the nation where new mutants and variants came up along with deadly diseases like black fungus. Seeing uplift in the number of cases states were forced to impose local lockdowns aggravating the situation. Even as the second wave was entering there was a rise in the number of applications in MGNREGA programme to ensure bare subsistence earning.

This shows that due to the pandemic, unemployment was on rise and because of which people had to resort to alternatives to earn their living. Rising applications show that people are returning from their villages to urban areas in search of work. MGNREGA programme proved to be very helpful during these tough times.

As various countries are now experiencing third wave it is quite possible that India will experience third wave. The Indian economy is hardly back on track and all the people who lost their jobs haven’t even got their jobs back but the possibility of even worst conditions is lingering. Analysts say that the third wave will affect the people in rural areas. This aspect of the third wave is worrisome as the health facilities there, are poor.

In addition, people in these backward areas are not aware of the precautions to be taken. They have some taboos and stereotypes in their mind due to which they refuse to take their jabs. These actions will make this vulnerable section risk their lives. Some countries have successfully fought against the pandemic because of mass vaccination programme and other strategies. India needs to learn from these countries and make people aware so that India can prevent the danger of subsequent waves. India needs to understand that Health infrastructure needs to be developed.

This pandemic will surely prepare us for such situations in the future and hopefully India will successfully tackle this as well as all such situations.

Written by- Disha Khetrapal

Edited by- Sohini Roy

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