As If Life Could Get Tougher: Poverty & Pandemic

Coronavirus is the biggest crisis which the world had to face in the past few decades. Its impact on our social and economic lives is beyond any measure.

Some estimates suggest that coronavirus has pushed around 50 million people into poverty in 2020. These newly poor people are present in middle and lower income group countries. Their concentration is alarming throughout the developing world, including India

The pandemic has affected the poor in many ways. Some of these are loss of jobs and increased prices at the same time. Millions of people around the world suffer to get two square meals a day for their children.

Malnutrition among children is at an all time high. While the healthcare system deals with the pandemic, basic and routine healthcare needs of the poor have been widely ignored.

On expected lines, the poor people were the most vulnerable during the pandemic. To begin with, poor people live mostly in rural areas where healthcare system is already weak.

Also, economy of rural areas depends on remittances and business from urban areas. With the lockdown affecting urban areas, the economy of rural areas has been indirectly hit.

In the urban areas, a vast majority of poor people generally live in congested slums. This made them very prone to the virus because they were unable to follow social distancing guidelines 

Secondly, a vast majority of the poor are employed in unorganised sector. Because of this, they have had to bear the most severe impact of the pandemic when businesses were shut down.

The absence of job security and regular pay in the unorganised sector, they had to go without food for several days at times during the last year. Even the agricultural workers were bound to be hit by the pandemic as urban demand for agricultural products had declined significantly.

Thirdly, it must be noted that unlike upper income groups, the poor people do not have substantial savings. The poor are forced to live hand to mouth. And as soon as they lost their source of income, their life went into complete jeopardy. Safeguards like insurance are also a distant dream for them.

Hence, it is imperative that the government takes special consideration of their situation and help the poor out of this misery. Government ought to mobilise its fiscal resources to directly help the poor through means like Public Distribution System and Direct Benefit Transfer. Benefits offered by the government should not be limited to the recorded poor but should also include the newly poor. 

Post-pandemic poverty elimination decisions should be well informed and should be strategic to help the ones in need immediately. The worst phase of the pandemic has passed and the economy is now catching its speed again.

It remains to be seen what happens to the newly poor and what the future holds for them. It also remains to be seen how the government policies to help the poor get back on their feet pans out in the long run. Till then, we must do our bit by giving our inputs via research and directly helping anyone in any way we can.

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