Emerging Patterns for August – Part I: Cross-sectional Analysis of 306 Blocks
Below is a snapshot of emerging patterns for issue-domains and clusters of blocks across 9 states. Details of clusters are given in the Appendix.
The following table indicates the names of clusters that need interventions in the respective domains.
The following charts present averages for each cluster, by domain.
(Please note: In the following charts, different colours (for bars) are used to represent different states, these colours do not have any other significance.)
The scores range on a scale from 1 to 3, with 1 indicating Low to 3 indicating High.
I. Access to Food & Water
The chart below gives the average availability and access to water and food. The food category includes access to the subsidized Public Distribution System (PDS) for food grains & cooking oil and also private distributors. It also explicitly looks at special distribution facilities for those who are food-insecure.
The factors responsible for the blocks which are facing difficulties in accessibility to food are the decrease in the number of days and the time duration for which the ration shops are open. In most of the surveyed blocks, people without ration cards and migrants are not able to get food from PDS ration shops.Also, there is decrease in distribution of extra free ration as compared to the previous months and lack of access to the private ration shops because of re-imposition of the lock-down restrictions.
In North Chhattisgarh either the number of days or the time for which the ration shops are open has reduced because of increase in the number of Covid positive patients. In few blocks, wood which is used as cooking fuel is not available due to rains. Some increase in price has recurred because of the lock-down. In North West Bihar, in certain blocks, even after government announced that non card holders will be given ration, it is not being provided. The floods have also worsened the situation – there is increase in the prices of essential commodities because of floods. Drinking water is an issue in Central Rajasthan.
II. Access to Healthcare Facilities
The healthcare category includes not only Covid19-related facilities but also general healthcare operations (health centres, functioning of Anganwadi, ASHA and ANM workers) which may be adversely affected due to focus on Covid19.
In almost all the blocks, the facility to treat Covid positive patients exist at the district level.Some blocks have quarantine centers. In Central Uttar Pradesh, very few blocks have facilities to treat Covid positive patients or people with any other illness. In certain blocks in North West Bihar, the Covid positive patients are asked to home quarantine and only in very critical cases are they attended to. Floods have also caused inability to access basic medical facilities in certain blocks.
III. Access to Cash and Credit
This category is important because households have many essential needs besides food & water and healthcare. These needs vary considerably across individuals and typically can be fulfilled through liquidity (cash or other financial means). Therefore this category proxies essential needs (partly also overlapping with food & water and healthcare). Liquidity is measured through the ability to withdraw cash from own account and access to credit & government cash benefits.
The rise in people availing credit is prevalent across all states mostly from farmers. The primary source of credit is Self Help Groups (SHGs). People also find it difficult to borrow from banks because of lack of collateral. Moneylenders are also unwilling to lend because of the uncertainty of the pandemic situation. With regard to access to cash, the primary concerns are that the banks are too crowded,and there is a lack of transportation facilities.Sometimes if any employee is found to be Covid positive, the bank shuts down for some time and a cap is set on the withdrawal limit.
We explore the situation of out-migrants, returned migrants and in-migrants (from the perspective of a block or cluster). For out-migrants we focus on ability to return; for returned migrants the focus is on food and income source; for in-migrants the focus is food, shelter and income source. The graph below is for returning migrants.
In West Uttar Pradesh, the migrants are not able to find work because of reduced MGNREGA work.Also,the migrants are lacking access to food. In Northern West Bengal, most of the migrants do not want to stay back. Some have already started going back to the places they used to work since there are limited work opportunities and MGNREGA is the only work available.
We focus on income loss for four broad livelihood categories for vulnerable groups: marginal farmers and labour in agriculture; labour outside the agriculture sector; craft workers; and workers in the informal service sector & those operating precarious micro-businesses.
In blocks where complete or partial lock-downs are imposed, the informal workers and small businessmen suffer with livelihood issues. In other blocks, the livelihood opportunities are gradually opening up. In some blocks, the non-agricultural labourers received lower wages than the pre-Covid times. The existing issues in the farming sector are amplified because of Covid restrictions leading to inaccessibility of inputs. In South Rajasthan, rains have arrived late and now the farmers have sown seeds. Also, the non-agricultural labourers are unable to find work. In North Maharashtra, access to seeds, fertilizers and insecticides is an issue for farmers.
We also separately explore access to work through NREGA, the government’s flagship employment guarantee scheme (availability of work and gauging excess demand).
The main reason for the lack of availability of MGNREGA work is the rains. In North West Bihar, MGNREGA work has completely stopped because offloods.In few blocks in North Jharkhand the work has stopped because of strike by MGNREGA officials.
VI. Social Discrimination
Economic distress and restraints on mobility can impact security, social relations and well-being. We explore the following issues: social situation of migrants, healthcare workers & suspected / actual Covid patients; religion-based tensions; other forms of conflict triggered by the distress situation, including the role of ‘fake news’.
The rumors and conflicts which were observed during the initial phase of lockdown have almost ceased.
In August, I-CARD covered 306 blocks across 9 states. The blocks are grouped into 30 clusters based on geographical location, contiguity and development history focusing on the presence of vulnerable groups and significant rural population.