May 4, 2021

Demand for work under NREGA rose by 89 percent in April 2021

Livelihoods: The demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) increased by 89 percent to 2.54 crore households in April this year, against 1.34 crore in April 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Rural Development.

This is the highest demand in any April since compilation of this data started in 2013. This rise coincides with the exodus of migrant workers from cities to their villages on the back of restrictions such as curfews and lockdowns imposed by states to curb the surge in COVID-19 infections.

An average of 1.6 crore rural households have demanded work in April over the last eight years. April 2020 recorded the lowest demand during these years as work was partially suspended due to the nationwide lockdown.

With NREGA being a demand-driven scheme, a top government official told Economic Times that the rural development ministry is constantly monitoring the situation, and that funds would be made available as and when required.

The Centre had allocated INR 73,000 crore to the scheme in FY 2021-22, which is 34 percent less than the INR 1.11 lakh crore spent last fiscal. The original budgeted spending for the scheme for FY 2020-21 was around INR 60,000 crore but was increased last year to meet the surge in demand due to the national lockdown and large-scale reverse migration to villages.

Read this article on how putting women at the front and centre of NREGA can change societal perceptions of what women can and cannot do.


May 11, 2021

Government halts four key surveys due to COVID-19 second wave

COVID-19: Four key surveys on migrants, domestic workers, jobs created by the transport sector, and the employment potential of professionals, have been suspended by the central government in light of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is likely to delay the national employment policy which would have been based on these surveys.

The government will proceed with the fifth survey—the quarterly employment survey (QES). Unlike in past years though, this survey will be conducted online.

These surveys are important as they can provide a holistic picture of the employment market, and the socioeconomic condition of migrant and informal workers. However, government officials said that with lockdowns and curfews across the country, surveyors will find it difficult to meet the respondents at homes, offices, and worksites. They also added that the surveys will be restarted once the situation improves.

The national surveys which are designed and implemented by the Labour Bureau in consultation with an expert committee, might have to be reworked considering the change in ground realities owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of the QES—which is a physical establishment-based survey cutting across companies and industries, the survey is being administered after a gap of four years. The results for this will be released by July-end.

The national jobs and social-economic survey results were expected to form the base of the national employment policy being considered by the government, along with the four labour codes by the Parliament in 2020.

“We have put the four surveys on hold as the surging COVID-19 makes it almost impossible to do the household surveys. We are talking to our expert committee on how to incorporate the new realities in these surveys. It’s a difficult situation, and sending our field workers to houses and offices will have a huge implication on their health and well-being. Second, no one will entertain surveyors at their homes during a second wave,” said D P S Negi, Director General, Labour Bureau, and Chief Labour Commissioner.

He also added that they hope to restart the process in a couple of months once the situation improves. The initial survey was to have been released by November 2021.

 Read this article to understand how rural India can respond to the second wave effectively.


May 11, 2021

In Tamil Nadu, COVID-19 fatalities higher among women and youth in second wave

COVID-19: A comparison of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in Tamil Nadu reveals that a higher proportion of women and youth have died in the second wave. In the first wave, women accounted for 27 percent of all deaths, whereas in the second they comprise nearly 33.5 percent of all deaths. However, the gender distribution of cases remains the same with women accounting for 40 percent and men 60 percent.

People aged between 21-60 years accounted for 43.6 percent of deaths in the second wave—a sharp rise from the 38.7 percent in the first wave. On the other hand, percentage of deaths among those aged 60 and above have declined from 61 percent in the first wave to 56.3 percent in the second wave. This is despite the fact that the percentage of elderly among cases reported has increased from 13.2 percent in the first wave to 14.4 percent in the second wave.

Overall, the daily deaths reported during the second wave has been increasing, with 1,200 deaths occurring in the past week. Compared to this, there were 7,900 deaths in the 12 weeks between July to September 2020. Case fatality however is lower at 1.03 percent currently compared to 1.62 during the peak of the first wave (July to September). The decline of case fatality is most pronounced among the elderly.

According to Prithvi Mohandas, the managing doctor at MIOT International Hospital, the relaxed curbs, and disregard for precautions has led to more exposure for all age groups. He said that many of the young who needed hospitalisation tended to choose home care and would only go to hospitals when the illness became severe.

Read this article to know about a day in the life of a social worker in Lucknow working to arrange cremations, counselling bereaved families, and help COVID-19 patients find hospital beds.


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