COVID19: Impact on Rural People, Migrant Workers in India

June 24, 2020

COVID-19 is the name given by the World Health Organization (WHO) on February 11 for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It started in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and has since spread worldwide. COVID-19 is an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease of 2019 (co, vi, d = COVID).

The data reveals that up to June 17 more than 82 lakh persons across the world have confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which death took place in more than 4.40 lac. In our country to control the disease, a lockdown was toward the end of March 2020.

In the last part of March 2020, the Government of India announced a lockdown.

The sudden announcement of the lockdown resulted in a panic exodus of migrant workers back to their homes in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and other states. Facing an uncertain future in the cities – With no income and no assurance of food or shelter – Many preferred to return to their villages, where they were certain of at least having a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. However, while the promise of a roof might remain, no guarantee returning home will ensure food security, neither for the migrant workers nor for their families.

Rural-urban migration in India is widespread, a recent World Bank Report (2020) estimates close to 40 million internal migrations took place, most of who were driven by economic necessity. Also, remittances account for a large proportion of monthly family income. Out of a total monthly income it is estimated that remittances constitute between 25 percent and 50 percent. In some states like Bihar, this income forms as much as one-third of the state Gross Domestic Product (GDP) even. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, South Asia (newsletter of May 18) within the first few days of the lockdown, there was a huge reversal of rural-urban migration, and it is estimated that 5 lac to 6 lac migrants left for their homes on foot, with even more crowding against buses and trains.

Because of the lockdown, the following major issues also cropped up in our country:

i) The IMF report divulges the growth rate of the Indian economy which may come down to negative because of the crisis. Travel and tourism loss may be around Rs 8,500 crore because of the restrictions imposed on foreign tourists and

ii) The entertainment industry is also facing a loss of Rs 250 crore from March to May, because of postponement of all shooting plans

India for the first time experienced such a lockdown and the union government implemented to save the people in collaboration with the state government so that COVID-19 cannot spread. Many persons suffered in many ways and our GDP also may scale down compared to previous years so the economic impact of the lockdown is not palatable in our country; despite this to save people lockdown was a great step. My suggestion through this column is that the states where the outflow of migration (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where significant migrations take place) is too high, the state governments should prepare a road- map for more income generation activities so that in future less out-migration takes place from these states.



By Prof Shankar Chatterjee
Prof Shankar Chatterjee, is a retired Professor and Head (CPME) from NIRD & PR, from the Government of India. He has published 32 books and 500 plus research papers, articles, etc and more than 1000 comments. He has visited many countries and across India as well. In January 2019 he received a lifetime achievement award from EAST, Tamil Nadu, India.
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Comment on this article

  • Harsha, Mangaluru

    Thu, Jun 25 2020

    BJP govt appears to under estimate the impact of Sudden lock down ,resulting in massive disruption of
    life esp crores of migrant workers. we are at stand still of the economy. BJP has no plans for recovery. Added to this Corona virus crisis,No jobs for new graduates. We need expert ideas from economists otherwise the future appears bleak.

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