India in the grip of severe poverty amidst Covid 19 crisis

The Covid19 persists to trigger havoc all over the world and many countries are stumbling under the deadly wave of the pandemic rapidly transforming into hunger and malnutrition disasters. The bigger challenge is however to deal with the poverty caused by the pandemic, and it has unveiled the reality of our system and increasing the existing inequalities. The economic consequence is expected to be sensed for years. Lockdowns seem to have halted the rise in the cases, but many people lost their jobs and were in a situation where they were unable to support their families. A country like India which makes up approximately 17 per cent of the world’s population observed one of the sharpest decline in the GDP wiping the gains achieved in the last decades. Unemployment has raised to the highest level over the last decades as economic activity has come to a screeching halt which is since 90 per cent of the labour force is in zones with no social security. Increasing poverty, homelessness, unemployment directed to the unparalleled increase in infant mortality, mental health problems and even suicides. Around 230 million people in India plunged into poverty- living on less than US$5 per day. Inequality in India has escalated to an extraordinary level as Mukesh Ambani became the 4 wealthiest men in the world in this pandemic while it’s deprived stand unsteadily at the brink. According to a report by Oxfam,1 per cent of Indian elites held 4 times the wealth of 953 million (70%) people. For impoverished covid 19 is not a concern but the socioeconomic catastrophes which could lead to soaring in child labour and child marriages. Dalit who is deemed as a lower caste and face everyday intolerance and inadequate access to social protection and health care and are among those who suffered the most in the pandemic. Agriculture which is the primary source of income for households in villages is in severe crises due to disruption in the supply chain due to pandemic which is harming their income. Moreover, covid 19 functions as a disclose of underlying inclinations as it has emphasized the despotism of power and stigmas surrounding Muslims that they were behind all these crises.

The delicacy of the Indian system is one of the main reasons due to which social service could not reach every household (low-quality data and mistargeting). To lift the nation out of poverty social assistance is the main instrument.

Indian lower middle tries to tackle the crisis by vending and borrowing assets though government relief programs overcome extreme situations but due to the uneven distribution it leaves out most of the households who were extremely vulnerable, highlighting the fragility of countries’ systems in the fight against the pandemic. Without necessary measures, the number of people would be double facing food insecurity as the main worry for them is not the pandemic but hunger.

For a massive population like that of India where millions of lives are at risk, there is a need to devise a system in which layout the area and households which are in dire need of government assistance. Social services are considered the most viable instrument through which one can pull the most vulnerable population out of poverty. Government should inculcate scientific methods and analysis to bring change in policies related to anti-poverty. Furthermore, there is a need for a long-term strategy to cope with poverty which can be done by making the most underprivileged segment of the society self-dependent by offering them some kind of skillset. Local governments can play their part in this crisis as they know better the root causes of the problems so empowering them by giving technical and technological assistance and an improved monitoring system would help to elevate poverty from the grassroots level. To prevent households from going further down the poverty line it is important to assist these families with food support and adequate cash.Covid19 being the worst humanitarian crises after World War 2, we can’t undermine the people living in extreme poverty so all forums whether it is government, MNCs and non-profit organizations must work together to formulate an effective policy and commit increased resources to deal with it. Every human has a right to social protection. There is an urgent need to share vaccine technology and start manufacturing and if we don’t, we will never be able to successfully tackle this crisis anywhere.

Covid 19 cases have seen a downtrend compared to the time when it was at its peak and many people plunged into the vicious cycle of worsening this crisis, economic stagnation, and loss of livelihood. There is still hope that with sustainable solutions not only we can overcome the crisis but use this crisis as an opportunity to lift millions out of poverty which is possible for a state which had reduced poverty at the fastest rate in history.

Tanawish Manzoor
Tanawish Manzoor
Tanawish Manzoor is a student of IR at the National Defense University, Islamabad.