Monday, June 7, 2021

Covid + lockdowns both hammering India's poor

Hunger stalks India's poor in COVID-19 pandemic double blow | CNA - AFP/jt:

May 30, 2021 - "Rasheeda Jaleel lives in fear that she may not be able to feed her seven children as millions of Indian families are forced into poverty by a devastating new coronavirus wave. The 40-year-old, her husband Abdul Jaleel, 65, and the children already survive on just one meal a day....

"The coronavirus has killed 160,000 in eight weeks, overwhelmed hospitals and shut many businesses in India. Experts warn that another crisis is looming, with rising levels of hunger among poor Indians already reeling from a first lockdown last year. 'It's a double crisis that the poor in the country are facing - there is the health crisis and there is also an income economic crisis," Anjali Bhardwaj from the Right to Food Campaign told AFP....

"More than 7.3 million jobs were lost in April [2021] alone, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy. That means more pain in a country where 90 per cent of the workforce is in the informal sector with no social safety net, and where millions do not qualify for emergency government rations.

"'A lot of people went into poverty last year, they went into debt, and ... they had to cut back on food consumption,' Associate Professor Amit Basole, one of the university study's authors, told AFP. 'So the second wave is coming on top of a very precarious, stressed situation.'

"In last year's lockdown, about 100 million people lost their jobs in India. After restrictions were lifted, around 15 per cent failed to find employment by the end of 2020 - including 47 per cent of female workers, the Azim Premji University study found. Many who returned to work had to settle for lower pay, leaving them more vulnerable when the second wave hit....

"'The fear is that we ... get locked into a longish-term depressed economy where there is low aggregate demand because people's jobs and incomes are not coming back. And because they are not coming back, it ... perpetuates its own cycle,' Basole said.

"Bhupinder Singh, a micro-financier who has distributed food to the needy during the two lockdowns, has seen desperation rise among hundreds of unemployed men sleeping rough beside a busy Delhi highway. When he arrives with food packets, a cry of excitement goes up and men run to the back of his car and form a long queue.

"'People are stuck here out of helplessness,' Sunil Thakur, 50, who lost his job as a hotel waiter during the lockdown, told AFP. 'If they come with food, we get to eat ... If they don't come, we'll stay hungry.'

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