'In debt and skipping meals': Survey finds Covid second wave has hit the poor hard

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Small farmers, domestic workers, daily wage labourers, suffered severely due to the Covid pandemic, according to a ‘snap survey’ conducted by the KISLAY Social Research Collective.

The survey conducted between May 19 and May 25 among workers and small farmers in Dehradun and Nilgiris in Uttarakhand, and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu also found that satisfaction with both state and Central government responses to the pandemic was low, and access to vaccines and tests, and healthcare, remained a serious problem for most people.

Of the 1,029 workers and small farmers surveyed, 742 were hotel workers, small farmers and other rural poor from Tehri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand, 64 workers were from Rudraprayag district in Uttarakhand, 100 daily wage and domestic workers in Dehradun, and 101 were agricultural and daily wage workers from Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts.

The vast majority of those surveyed, across all three sites, reported that they had been unemployed for all or part of the period between April 1 and May 15. 

Over 75 per cent of the participants in Tehri Garhwal and Rudraprayag were unemployed for this entire period, and all of those interviewed in Tamil Nadu had been unemployed for more than half of the period. 

In Dehradun, 52 per cent of workers were unemployed for more than 10 days in this period.

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More than half of the interviewees were forced to take loans with 52 per cent of those interviewed in Dehradun, 54.3 per cent of those interviewed in Tehri Garhwal and Rudraprayag, and 92.7 per cent of those interviewed in Tamil Nadu doing so to meet expenses between April 1 and May 15. 

Almost all interviewees had to reduce consumption of food items in this period because of economic problems with 83 per cent of participants in Dehradun, 93.67 per cent of participants in the hills of Uttarakhand, and 96.75 per cent of those interviewed in Tamil Nadu having to cut down on their consumption of at least one meal between April 1 and May 15 because of lack of funds.

There was hesitancy when it came to taking vaccines — 26 per cent of participants in Dehradun said they felt vaccination was risky, and 14 per cent said they “had not thought about it yet”. In Tamil Nadu, 98 per cent of those surveyed said they had not thought of getting vaccinated yet.

Respondents mentioned a low level of satisfaction with the Central government — 78 per cent in Tamil Nadu, 44 per cent in Dehradun and 34 per cent of participants in the hills of Uttarakhand were dissatisfied with the Centre’s response.