Despite 78% of rural India finding no work in lockdown, survey shows 74% backs Modi govt in COVID-19 fight

Additionally, more than 68% rural Indians faced 'high' to 'very high' monetary difficulties during lockdown, the survey conducted by Gaon Connection and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies found

Press Trust of India August 11, 2020 09:08:25 IST
Despite 78% of rural India finding no work in lockdown, survey shows 74% backs Modi govt in COVID-19 fight

New Delhi: An overwhelming majority of rural Indians are satisfied with the steps taken by the Narendra Modi government as well as state dispensations to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, despite facing hardships that forced some to sell land, phones and watches, and take loans from neighbours to get by, according to a nationwide survey unveiled on Monday.

Seventy four percent of rural Indians are satisfied with the steps taken by the Modi government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey of rural India by media platform Gaon Connection said.

About 78 percent respondents said they were also satisfied with the steps taken by their respective state governments, as per the findings of the survey whose full details are available at www.ruraldata.in.

A total of 25,371 respondents were interviewed between 30 May and 16 July, 2020 during the exercise and all of them were main earners of their households, and thus primarily men, the Gaon Connection said.

The survey was designed and data analysed by the Lokniti-CSDS team at the New Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The Lokniti Programme for Comparative Democracy is a research programme of the CSDS.

The survey was carried out through face-to-face interviews while following social distancing in 179 districts across 23 states and union territories by Gaon Connection Insights, the data and insights arm of the media platform.

On the margin of error in the survey, Sanjay Kumar, professor at CSDS, said: "If the entire sample had been selected using the probability sampling methods, the overall margin of error for a sample as large as this (25,300 respondents) would have been +/- 1 per cent at a 95 percent confidence level."

"However, given that the sampled locations were not spread out evenly in most states/UTs and were selected by non-probability sampling methods owing to logistical and COVID-related issues, we are not in a position to provide reliable estimates of sampling error," he said.

The nationwide lockdown was first imposed from 25 March for 21 days in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The lockdown was first extended till 3 May and then again till 17 May. It was further extended till 31 May.

This was followed by ''Unlock 1'', ''Unlock 2'' and "Unlock 3" phases during which a large number of social, economic, religious and sports activities are being allowed.

Of those who supported the Modi government's steps, 37 percent said they were "very satisfied" and 37 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied" with the central government, according to the survey.

More than 14 percent respondents said they were "somewhat dissatisfied" with the Modi government, and seven percent said they were "very dissatisfied".

According to the survey, the lockdown doesn't seem to have adversely impacted the perception of rural citizens about the Modi government at the Centre, or the governments in the states on the whole.

"For instance, on being asked whether the Modi government's attitude towards migrant workers during the lockdown had been good or bad, 73 per cent or over seven out of ten respondents interviewed in rural areas of the country said it had been good (29 percent said very good and 44 percent rated it as good)," the Gaon Connection said.

Only 23 percent or around one of every four were of the opinion that the lockdown had been bad (nine percent very bad and 14 percent bad), it said.

While 40 percent respondents said the lockdown was "too harsh", 38 percent said it was "adequately harsh", 11 percent said the lockdown should have been harsher. Four percent respondents said the lockdown should not have happened at all, as per the findings of the survey

The state governments on the whole were rated equally positively, in fact slightly more than the Centre, with 76 percent describing their attitude towards migrants as good and only 20 percent rating it as bad.

"Interestingly, respondents in BJP-ruled states were less impressed with the Modi government's and their state government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic than those in many other states," the Gaon Connection said.

"Rural India has not been part of the national media narrative in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. This survey offers powerful insights into how rural India dealt with this crisis, and what it plans to do ahead including questions like, will they return to cities, will they change spending patterns," said Neelesh Misra, founder of Gaon Connection.

The survey found that about 23 percent of rural Indians borrowed money during the lockdown, eight percent sold a valuable possession (phone, watch etc.), seven percent mortgaged jewellery, and fiveper cent sold or mortgaged land.

It also found that 71 percent ration card-owning households said they received wheat or rice from the government during the lockdown.

Of the 17 percent citizens who do not own ration cards, only 27 percent said they received wheat or rice from the government, according to the survey findings.

Twenty three percent of the migrant workers returned home walking during the lockdown and over 33 percent migrant workers said they want to go back to the cities to work, the survey showed.

It also showed that skilled workers and manual (unskilled) labourers were the hardest hit. Work shut down completely for 60 percent skilled workers and 64 percent manual labourers.

"One in every eight rural households surveyed reported frequently having gone without eating food the entire day during lockdown due to lack of money and resources," the Gaon Connection said.

Only 20 percent respondents said they got work under MGNREGA in the lockdown, according to the survey.

Chhattisgarh reported the highest percentage of such households at 70 percent followed by Uttarakhand (65 percent) and Rajasthan (59 percent). Gujarat and UTs of Jammu & Kashmir-Ladakh reported the lowest work under MGNREGA at 2 percent and 4 percent, respectively, the survey showed.

More than 68 percent rural Indians faced "high" to "very high" monetary difficulty during the lockdown, the survey findings said.

The survey also showed that 42 percent of the households with pregnant women said these women did not get pregnancy check-ups and vaccination during the lockdown. The lowest percentages were in West Bengal (29 percent) and Odisha (33 percent).

Seventy eight percent respondents saw their work coming to a "complete standstill" or "a standstill to a large extent" during the lockdown while 44 percent respondents said their work came to a complete standstill during the lockdown.

Seventy one percent surveyed households reported a drop in total monthly household income during the lockdown months compared to pre-lockdown months, as per the survey findings.

The poor were the hardest hit - 75 percent poor families and 74 percent lower class households suffered a fall in income during the lockdown, the survey said.

It also found that only nine percent of rich rural households, who do not own a car, were thinking of buying a car in the coming months.

Similarly, only 14 percent of non-bike owning rich households plan to buy a bike in the next five to six months, the survey found.

More than half the farmers managed to harvest their crops in time in the lockdown, but only one fourth could sell them on time.

More than half (54 percent) of the households with kids registered with anganwadis and government schools reported receiving dry ration/meals during the lockdown, as per the survey findings

In Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir-Ladakh, and Chhattisgarh this percentage was the highest at 90 percent, 89 percent and 86 percent, respectively.

Bihar and Gujarat reported the least at 32 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

"The Rural Report" by Gaon Connection is the first set of national insights that document the post COVID impact on livelihood, income, debt, perception towards governments, consumption patterns and future plans, the Gaon Connection said.

The states where the survey was conducted are Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Odisha, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The surveyed union territories are Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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