Life and Livelihood Together : Need for Rural India

Dr. Jayanta Choudhury

April 13, 2020, 12:42:12   

Associate Professor, National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, North eastern Regional Centre (Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India), Guwahati. 

As few of the states have already extended its lockdown period and during meeting with PM, most of the states suggested for further extension. India is obviously going to face lockdown 2.0. from 15th April though zonation. All the international agencies like Work Bank, UNDP, Oxfam and even RBI have estimated that poverty and unemployment will obviously increase and GDP is bound to further decrease in India due to Corona pandemic like many other South Asian Countries. Rural India is and will be vastly victim of that situation. Among them Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, old age persons, women headed households, disabled persons are more vulnerable sections. Two major problem is reported everywhere – food security and lack of money in hand due to loss and lack of employment. 

India has enough food storage and therefore no immediate problem like the big famine in 1960s. But food shortage may occur in long term as most off the agricultural states will face shortage of labour due to reverse migration of laborer. For the short time - at least for 3-4 months- it is required to channelize food grains to the needy. Government has sanctioned free food grains and other essentials for the poor. But most of the cases distributions of those are being hampered. In this regard local self-government and Self-Help Groups are the best machineries to be involved. As reported across the country NGOs, Civil society organization, local clubs are playing very much proactive role in distribution of free food. These channels need to be involved with the government mechanism. Sometime valid ration card is creating confusion and constrain. But it’s time to move for alternatives like Voter Card, Adhar Card or/and even bank pass book. Panchayat/ Village Committees should assure and monitor the distribution. 

Rural India is also facing difficulties related to perishable goods like vegetable, frits, flower, milk etc. India is witnessed that farmers are wasting those products across the country due to unable to reach to customers or lack of storage facility. Local transport system with restriction may be allowed to bring those village products to nearby towns. SHG federation, farmers clubs, Producers organization, rural youths with vehicle may be utilized for this purpose.      

Another major problem is cash in-hand due to lack of employment. We can address this issue into two categories- jobless within the village and reverse migrant labours. 

Within the village people like daily labours, auto drivers, rickshaw pullers, workers in unorganized sector, workers in private sectors, private tutors are living without money due to loss or lack of work.     This problem will worsen due to reverse migration of the migrant workers who are stuck in some places due to sudden midnight lockdown and eager to back to their native places. Therefore hunt for job will be main issue in coming days.

There are no shortcut remedies. But effective and efficient implementation of government schemes may make some dent in the problem, Government of India has increased wage rate for MGNREGA workers in the financial package. But mere increase of MGREAGA wage will not solve the problem. It is important more job creation and smooth payment. Anybody who are interested – both unskilled as well as skilled - may be given opportunity to enrolled in MGNREGA work and payment should be given, at least during lockdown period-in both cash and kind i.e. Rice/Wheat, cereals, sugar, oil, salt etc. (as was practiced during JRY). Apart from various construction and maintenance works, workers may be involved in Agricultural specially during harvesting time, vegetable cultivation, horticultural activities in the individual farm maintaining ‘social distancing’. Suitable amendment and effective implementation of state MGREAGA need to be considered in this regard. 

Centre should allow to re-open, with proper maintenance of care and social distancing, small and medium enterprises like Bakery, Ata making etc. These can absorb some labour force. Some diversification of occupation is already noticed in rural area for survival. These need strengthening with require soft loans and handholding.  

Migrant workers when return from the other states, may be engaged in above mentioned works too, after proper testing. Some off the educated rural youth can explore online jobs using digital platform. 

As reported, Total 65,936 SHG members from 14,522 SHGs are involved and together they have manufactured 132 lakh masks and large numbers of SHGs under NRLM are engaged in awareness generation and sensitization. SHGs should ensure easy and quick disbursement of soft loan with less interest to its members. Even conditional consumption loan may be allowed for the time being. SHGs should find out future ventures in supply chain business.

 India has already started re-monitization through PGJDY account though the amount is very meager for any individual family and lot of anomalies are also noticed. Central government should puss money at PGJDY account on weekly basis and Local Government and bank should be pro-active to solve those shortfalls. MFIs should consider 3-4 months moratorium periods for repayment of loan. 


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