A survey of the working masses in Delhi, conducted in the aftermath of the second COVID-19 wave earlier this year, has painted a stark picture of its impact on resident’s livelihoods, thereby reinforcing the demand for schemes involving cash transfer and guaranteed employment in the national capital.
The survey, conducted by the Delhi unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) during the first two weeks of June this year, found that out of the 1,917 surveyed workers, about 65% of the respondents were not employed at all in the months of April and May while others reported a considerable dip in their income.
Their woes were only compounded, as the survey showed that more than half of them claimed they did not have a ration card. The survey said it was the “biggest cause” behind the inaccessibility of working class households to adequate foodgrains from the public distribution system in the capital.
The survey, that focused on the impact of the second COVID-19 wave on employment conditions, health expenditure and access to subsidised foodgrains for those in need, covered the “major working class areas” across Delhi, along with parts of Ghaziabad too. Its results were shared in a press conference held at Indian Womens’ Press Corps on Friday.
As cases of COVID-19 started rising at an alarming rate the national capital was put under lockdown between April 19 and May 30. During this period, the survey by CPI(M) Delhi found that casual workers were among the worst hit by the loss of employment, with 72% among them reported having no work. Similarly, of the surveyed self-employed skilled workers, about 52% said they were unemployed in both April and May.
The results of the survey added that the average income of the self-employed technical workers and the petty business owners, including the street vendors, was also halved.
Vikas Rawal, Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, (JNU) who was part of the survey team, said that not many surveys had studied the impact of lockdown measures on livelihoods of the working class after the second COVID-19 wave. “Our survey presents a grim situation of the working population in Delhi. It also provides a window into what would be a similar situation in other metropolitan cities,” he said.
Furthermore, as per the survey, 54% of the respondents claimed not to have a ration card. It was only in the month of June that the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government began distributing subsidised food grains to this group, those with no ration card.
The Central Government had in the month of May reintroduced the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) under which an additional five kg per person of the ration was to be distributed. However, only 31% of the surveyed household with ration cards received the full 10 kg of grains per person in Delhi during May, the survey found.
Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), on Friday flayed both the AAP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments for the “poor” situation of the working class families in Delhi. “The residents of the national capital, were deprived of their basic citizenship rights when they required it the most,” she said.
Karat added that the survey pointed towards a “growing need” to conduct a door-to-door government survey in the national capital to ascertain the ground realities. “The jumlas and the empty rhetoric of these governments have to met with solid data and facts,” she said.
K.M. Tiwari, state secretary, CPI(M) Delhi, said that the party had sent a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal based on the survey results and demanded a cash transfer of Rs 7,500 for the workers from the unorganised sector along with an urban employment guarantee scheme that could be specifically designed to cover workers in stressed sectors like construction among others, he said.
Tiwari added that the survey and its results are part of the long campaign to press for their demands, that will be raised even in the coming days.