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Letter from the authors

The emergence of Covid-19 gave rise to a global crisis of unprecedented scale. Countries around the world have had to make difficult decisions about how to navigate the crisis, and India is no different. An important consequence (amongst others), is that many segments of the economy effectively grounded to a halt in the first half of 2020. As a result, millions of families across the country experienced significant losses in income, employment, and savings.

The government offered significant support to help below-poverty line (BPL) families navigate the crisis. For BPL families, most of whom already rely on a range of existing government entitlements to make ends meet, the crisis poses an existential threat. Therefore, on 26 March, the central government announced a financial relief package, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana 2020 (PMGKY 2020); announcements since then, including the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Package and supplementary ration entitlements until November, have expanded support to a total of over INR 20 lakh crore. State governments, too, have extended further measures to supplement the Centre’s efforts.

As the most significant form of relief most families are likely to receive during this time, government entitlements (both existing and new) are critical.

Dalberg launched a rapid, multi-round study across 15 states to capture the cumulative efficacy of government entitlements in helping low-income families navigate the financial impacts of Covid-19. It was quickly clear that realities could vary widely by geography, segment, and week by week, and that households' needs were—and remain—urgent. Given this dynamic, policymakers needed real-time, actionable intelligence about what was working and where there were opportunities for further improvements.

We focused our study on low-income families who self-identified as BPL (more detail on our sample can be found in our methodology note).

Our motivation for conducting this study was to help policymakers make timely, informed decisions about entitlements during this ongoing crisis: both to make iterative improvements on entitlements that low-income households are receiving and to imagine, where relevant, other means of meeting their needs. This strategic intention guided the design of our research methodology and dissemination approach:

  • Scale: The study includes perspectives from 47,000 low-income households across 15 states, surveyed from April 5 – June 3, 2020. It is amongst the most comprehensive sources of data on COVID-19 response in India.
  • Techniques: Our research techniques balance the need for breadth and depth. The results are based on telephonic interviews using a combination of a 20-minute survey questionnaire across all respondents and 30-45 minutes in-depth qualitative interviews across select respondents.
  • Dissemination: To support decision-making during the crisis, we shared early results within days of the initial entitlement announcements in April and continued to share iterative findings directly with a range of Central and state government policymakers on a weekly basis.

We have also launched a live dashboard,, that can be used to explore the data by scheme, segment, time period, and geography, so that policymakers, researchers and civil society organizations can easily access our data.

We sought answers to the following five questions through this work:

  • What is the extent of the financial impact of the crisis among low-income households?
  • Who is covered under the entitlement schemes that are offering top ups or advance payments? Who is left out?
  • How many households have received entitlements under these schemes?
  • To what extent are people able to access and use their entitlements, and what obstacles exist?
  • Overall, are government entitlements sufficient? If not, what more do families need to make it through this crisis?

This document captures the culmination of our results from April through early June. If there are errors or shortcomings, they are our own, and we welcome suggestions for improvements. 

We want to thank Omidyar Network India and Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies for their support in making this research happen, and Kantar Public, who led the data collection efforts for the survey and  recruited participants for our qualitative interviews. We are also grateful to the study participants for their time and perspectives during an exceptionally difficult time.

Ultimately, we hope the data from this effort allows policymakers, civil society and research organizations to understand the efficacy of support provided thus far, and to make decisions that  help the poor continue to weather the ongoing crisis.

We expect to launch additional studies in the coming weeks to explore other aspects of the crisis, including the gendered impacts of the crisis, and the impact on education and childhood development, among others. We welcome further inputs that can support policy-making going forward. 

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and discussing the results. Please feel free to reach out to us at


Swetha Totapally

Associate Partner, Dalberg Advisors

Dr Petra Sonderegger

Senior Project Manager, Dalberg Advisors

Dr Priti Rao

Associate Partner, Asia Director, Dalberg Design

Gaurav Gupta

Partner and Regional Director, Dalberg Asia

About Us

Dalberg is a leading social impact advisory group that brings together - strategy consulting, design thinking, big data analytics, and research to address complex social and environmental challenges. We work collaboratively with communities, institutions, governments, and corporations to develop solutions that create impact at scale.

Kantar, Public division is an integrated consulting and research agency working with clients around the globe to improve public policy, public services and public communication. We are a part of the WPP group - world’s leading communications services group. We deliver expert, accurate data and insights on social and policy issues in diverse environments.

Supported by:

Omidyar Network India invests in bold entrepreneurs who help create a meaningful life for every Indian, especially the hundreds of millions of Indians in low-income and lower-middle-income populations, ranging from the poorest among us to the existing middle class. To drive empowerment and social impact at scale, we work with entrepreneurs in the private, non-profit and public sectors who are tackling India’s hardest and most chronic problems. We make equity investments in early stage enterprises and provide grants to non-profits in the areas of Digital Identity, Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. Omidyar Network India is part of The Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of companies, organizations and initiatives, supported by philanthropists Pam and Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay.

Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies supports ideas, individuals and institutions that enable a strong samaaj (society), and that have integrity, ethical leadership, clarity of ideas and accelerated impact. Through our work, we hope to enable more creative collaborations across divides and silos. Today’s complex social issues demand participation from all entities that have a stake in positive change. As signatories of the Giving Pledge, Rohini and Nandan Nilekani have committed half their wealth to philanthropy.

Recommended citation for this report:

Swetha Totapally, Petra Sonderegger, Priti Rao, Gaurav Gupta, Efficacy of government entitlements for low-income families during Covid-19. Dalberg, 2020.