Analysis: Shielding the Poor From the COVID-19 Pandemic in India
By Ramji Krishnan & Vidya Ramji
Prior to the pandemic, the World Bank estimated 176 million Indians were living in extreme poverty. Its poverty projections for June this year for South Asia suggest Covid-19 could generate 88 million additional poor at $3.2/day and another 88 million additional poor at $5.5/day poverty lines.
The challenge is to ensure a pandemic does not unravel the gains made in poverty alleviation. In times of distress, inability of a working member to earn is a common cause of impoverishment. In 2016, the Prime Minister announced a 10-point agenda for disaster management. A key element was to work towards risk coverage for all—starting from poor households. Some steps have been taken to ensure financial inclusion and risk insurance. Yet we do not have one for basic sustenance during a disaster—targeting the millions of poor who need it the most. Microcredit programmes and safety-net based cash transfers, which scale up in the event of a disaster, are viable alternatives.
Photo courtesy of Ray Witlin / World Bank.