Paper: General Studies Paper-I
Section: Current National Issues
Topic: Corona Virus
Analyse the impact of COVID-19 on rural lives and livelihood in India and suggest a measure to deal with the situation.
The national lockdown has severely affected lives and livelihoods across rural India. Agriculture and allied sectors employ more than half of the workforce in the country. A majority of India’s farmers (85%) are small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land. More than nine million active fishers directly depend on fisheries for their livelihood, 80% of which are small scale fishers; the sector
as a whole employs over 14 million people.
Impact of the Lockdown
- Delay in Harvest: Harvest of the Rabi crops has been delayed due to non-availability of labour, machinery, transport facilities and restrictions on movement.
- Effect on Cash Crops: Farmers of perishable commodities like fruits, vegetables, and flowers as well as plantation crops are incurring huge losses.
- Impact on Labour Force: Agriculture labourers are not able to go to work due to lack of transport. Labour work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) has stopped.
- Poultry Sector: Egg prices have crashed to an all time low and poultry meat sales have dwindled drastically.
- Fisheries Sector: Fishers haven’t been able to go out to sea since end of March and are subsequently worried about the 45-day annual fishing ban in line with the fish breeding season, coming into force along the east coast from midApril. Both brackish and fresh water aquaculture farmers have also been affected with harvest delayed due to labour non-availability, market closure and movement restrictions; exports of shrimps to Europe and the US has stopped and local fish prices have fallen leading to loss of income.
- Adverse Impact on Tribal’s Livelihood: Tribal communities, the most vulnerable in terms of food and nutrition security are severely affected due to ban on the collection and sale of non-timber forest produce like kendu leaves and mahua flowers.
There is a need for both relief and rehabilitation measures to overcome the loss sustained and rebuild the rural lives. In addition to precautionary measures like maintaining social distancing and hand washing, proactive measures by the state with humanitarian perspective are called for as we begin operating in a ‘new normal’:
- More relief in kind (e.g. making the PDS universal); and cash (e.g. increasing the amount under the PM Samman Kisan Nidhi and releasing the first installment before kharif);
- Waiver of interest for the quarter on term loans and overdraft agriculture and MSME accounts;
- Compensating loss incurred due to damage to perishable crops like flowers, fruits, vegetables and fish and
- Enlarging the scope of MNREG to include harvest of crops on farmers’ fields by labour and value addition to produce by women.
Examine how Coronavirus pandemic has affected women?
Women are already suffering the deadly impact of lockdowns and quarantines. These restrictions are essential, but they increase the risk of violence towards women trapped with abusive partners. Recent weeks have seen an alarming global surge in domestic violence; the largest support organisation in the U.K. reported a 700% increase in calls. At the same time, support services for women at risk face cuts and closures.
- In terms of the direct health impact, men appear to be at much higher risk than women. In New York, for example, men are dying at nearly twice the rate as women from COVID-19.
- Women are also facing existential threats to their safety and freedoms right now as domestic violence victims are constantly confined with their abusers and the pandemic threatens access to reproductive health care
- The International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 200 million jobs will be lost in the next three months alone . And just as they are losing their paid employment, many women face a huge increase in care work due to school
closures, overwhelmed health systems, and the increased needs of older people.
- A recent survey showed that more than a third of women report being laid off or furloughed, or receiving pay cuts because of the coronavirus outbreak.
- The very notion of isolation has disrupted the hospitality, retail and tourism industries that many women rely on for their livelihoods.
- Every country can take action by moving services online, expanding domestic violence shelters and designating them as essential, and increasing support to front line organisations.
- Women in insecure jobs urgently need basic social protections, from health insurance to paid sick leave, childcare, income protection and unemployment benefits.
- Looking ahead, measures to stimulate the economy, like cash transfers, credits, loans and bailouts, must be targeted at women – whether they are working full-time in the formal economy, as part-time or seasonal workers in the informal economy, or as entrepreneurs and business owners.