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Income Loss

“We are running out of money and are having problems with getting food. I need my job back to support my family. That is my main priority. ​”

Binod, Male, 34
Urban, West Bengal
Construction labourer

34-year-old Binod stays with his wife, his daughter and his son. He’s a construction worker and the sole income earner. His family is dependent on him, and he has been unable to go to work due to the lockdown rules.

His household is running out of money, and despite getting free ration from central and state schemes, he is having problems with getting enough food. "Before the lockdown we used to eat fish and eggs, now we have to eat rice and potatoes. We don’t have money, so we buy supplies in small quantities and try to manage." Apart from food, they are short on money for medicines, cooking gas and essentials for their baby like soap, baby oil, and vitamin supplements. His wife is also worried about their daughter’s future. Her education has stopped as they no longer have the money to pay for her online classes and tuitions.​ ​

Binod has tried to borrow money but no one is able to lend him cash in the village due to the COVID-19 crisis. He recently tried to get supplies, but the shopkeepers are no longer letting him buy things on credit. His family is staying at home as much as possible to contain expenses and he is planning to get a loan or sell off the little gold jewellery they have to get by. Binod and his wife are stressed as they don’t have savings and don’t know what the future holds.​



“The next three months will be difficult because of all our debts. [...] There has been less work since the past 40 days, even if I go looking for it.”

Shivkumar, Male, 38
Rural, Telangana
Agricultural labourer

38-year-old Shivkumar from Telangana used to work on others’ farms as an agricultural labourer, but hasn’t been able to find work in the past few months due to the lockdown rules, leading to a loss of income. Shivkumar says that his family “might take two months to recover from the financial losses.” He believes that the recovery will not only depend on the easing of lockdown rules but also the weather, saying, “Only if it rains will we be able to get work in the future.”

Shivkumar has borrowed Rs. 6000 twice in the past two months from a farmer he used to work for. He has already spent Rs. 10,000 and estimates that the remaining amount will be spent in the next 20 days on supplies needed to run the household. Shivkumar and his family have reduced the quantity and consumption of pulses, vegetables and other essentials they used to purchase. “We used to cook twice a day, now we eat only once. We eat rice with pickles, that's all. We prepare in the morning and eat it for the day.”

Shivkumar plans to repay the borrowed amount by working on the lender's farm without pay for a month, while his wife intends to earn by working on another farm as an agricultural labourer to sustain the household. Shivkumar believes that the next three months will be difficult for him and his family due to accumulated debts, ongoing expenses and uncertainty about the rain which will impact their employment. Shivkumar is worried and wants to get back to work as soon as possible, stating, “If there are no agricultural jobs, then I will look for any other form of employment to sustain my family.”


Access to Cash

“We keep hearing that money is coming but we haven’t received it. They keep saying cooking gas is coming but we haven’t received it.”

Mohan, Male, 56
Rural, Bihar

Mohan is a 56-year-old farmer who also does temporary odd jobs to make ends meet. He lives with his three sons, wife, mother, daughter-in-law and two grandsons in a mud house.

He has heard some people in his village have received cash from government schemes. Mohan has also filled the form for a Kisan Yojana account a few months ago but he doesn’t know if he has received any money yet. The only way for ohan to know is to physically go to the bank and check. “How do we go to the bank in a lockdown? If we step out, the police yell at us. Since the bank is three kilometres away in Giridhar, we usually go by tempo, but they are closed.”

Mohan’s savings are running out, his work has stopped, and he worries that he will not receive the benefits of government schemes. His only option now is to arrange a loan from someone in his village.



"I make food, so I eat last. At times there is less food for me."

Uma, Female, 39
Rural, Haryana

39-year-old Uma is a tuition teacher, who gives classes from her home in rural Haryana. She lives with her two young children and husband. With the lockdown, the family has been facing financial challenges, the biggest of which has been affording food and ration supplies.

Since her husband and children are at home all day, Uma says she needs to make more food. Because food is short, she often ends up eating leftovers or finding substitutes for herself. She says, “The most important people in the house to get food are my children and then husband. My husband goes out to work so he needs nutrition and my children are growing up so they need proper food. I make food, so I eat last. At times there is less food for me, like less vegetables for me, so I compensate with milk or yogurt for myself. We make vegetables with more water and take care of the quantity of food due to shortage of vegetables.”

In addition to cooking and other domestic chores, Uma keeps track of the household’s supplies, tells her husband what to buy, homeschools the children, and takes care of their cattle. The household has been sustaining itself on Uma’s personal savings – she gives her ATM card to her husband, who withdraws the money and makes the necessary purchases – but she worries that her savings will soon run out.


Chronic Hunger

“We can’t even bring milk for our children. We can’t even get vegetables due to lack of money.”

Madhur, Male, 32
Urban, Telangana
Construction labourer

32-year-old Madhur stays with his wife and three children in a city in Telangana. Madhur hasn’t been able to find work since the lockdown, leading to a loss of income. Madhur and his family have already exhausted their savings and the lack of money has resulted in a severe shortage of food for them. “I have no money to spend from the last three to four days. So, I have been borrowing rice from other people.”

Madhur received 24 kg of free rice from the PDS shop during the lockdown, but that has been insufficient. “We boil rice in the water and prepare java with salt for our children. Whatever is left over, me and my wife eat. We used to eat three times a day, but since we are borrowing rice we eat only once a day, and in the evening we just drink water.” Madhur is worried about his family's health due to the shortage of food. “As I eat only once a day, I am feeling light-headed and weak. My children have lost weight. My wife is also feeling light-headed, and she delivered nine months ago so she is feeling weak too.”

Madhur is deeply affected by the severe lack of food and money, and the inability to provide for his family. “I feel depressed. Me and my wife get irritated with each other, and are unable to speak properly as we are worried for our children,” he says. If Madhur receives any money, he plans on using it towards buying basic essentials like rice, salt, sugar, oil, vegetables and then keep some money for his children's health.


Access to PDS

“We need ration. Even if we don’t have money, it's fine. But we will need ration. I got back 25 kg walking from the PDS shop. I gave half to my friend and we got it together.”

Prabir, Male, 28 and his Mother, Female, 60
Urban, Assam
Prabir (Daily wage labourer) and Mother (Homemaker)

28-year-old Prabir is a daily wage labourer who stays with his elder brother and mother in a city in Assam. Prabir and his brother have been out of work since the lock down and the family is relying on state provided ration for sustenance. “There are no supplies to make food. We are managing with the 25kg of free rice we received on the ration card. We used to eat thrice a day, now we have to eat twice a day. We get to eat only rice now. There are no vegetables, no fish.”

Prabir’s mother went to collect ration from the PDS shop which is about a kilometer away, but due to the lockdown she couldn’t take the tempo. “There were a lot of people at the ration shop, so I had to wait for two hours. I had to go walking and come back walking.” Prabir’s mother also has a Jan Dhan account and she received an SMS that Rs. 500 had been deposited in her account. “My mother had to go twice to the bank as she forgot her ATM card the first time. The Rs. 500 was spent on the way back in getting ration supplies.”

Prabir is concerned about getting by, and says, “There is no work, there is no money. Right now we are managing with the food given by the government and we have borrowed money from our neighbour. We will pay them back once we start working.” Prabir’s mother is worried about the household supplies that need to be bought, like oil, shampoo, sugar and salt. “We haven’t been able to get these things yet, there is no money. It will be helpful if the government can give this to us along with ration.”



“We wanted to plant tomato, bean, gourd but we weren’t able to plant it because we didn’t get the seeds.”

Deepa, Female, 39
Rural, Jharkhand
Farmer and construction labourer

Deepa is a 39-year-old farmer and construction labourer who stays with her husband and children in a rural area in Jharkhand. Deepa wanted to plant tomatoes, beans and gourds this season but due to the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown she was unable to get the seeds.

Deepa also used to work on construction sites and the little amount she used to get from MGNREGA work has also stopped due to the lock down. Deepa and her family manage food through the government ration, like dal and rice, and the remaining essentials like oil, spices, and sugar, they buy from the grocery stores by placing an order over the phone. “We have planted a lot in our home, so we grow our own wheat, rice and pulses and eat it. We have stored all this from last season and this has been sustaining us. But, we still need money, there are kids in the house and we have to pay their school fees. We are unable to afford medicines.” Deepa estimates that it will take her family four months to recover from the financial losses that they have suffered. Deepa is worried about the rising prices of household essentials and sees no further way to reduce the families expenses. “There is no work going on, everyone is sitting at home. So my work at home is also increasing, But I have to do it, there’s no other option and I’m not complaining about it.”

Deepa plans to resume farming and construction labour once the lockdown rules relax and things are back to normal. She plans to purchase seeds by selling some of the stocked up food grains or by borrowing money from friends. Deepa believes that she will be able to resume her savings with the Mahila Mandal (women economic collective) once her farming income starts. “But the season is also a little unpredictable, it's raining, there's hail so the produce is getting affected,” she adds.


Urban Casual Labour

“I have a home in the village, but what can we do going back, we won’t get work in the village. Right now, we need money, there is nothing we can do without money.”

Vijay, Male, 32
Urban, Haryana
Casual labourer

32-year-old Vijay lives in a city in Haryana with his wife, children and mother. Vijay works as a casual labourer in the city. He finds work through his neighbours and other people in his network. During the lock down Vijay was able to find work only once, for which he was paid Rs. 400. “It has been two months since there has been any work, and even if we try to go outside, the police hit us.”

Due to the loss of income, Vijay is worried about being able to pay the house rent, electricity bill, and sustain household expenses on daily essentials. “Our kids need clothes, but they don't have any. They’ve been wearing the same clothes. We need soap and detergent but we haven’t been able to get soap.” Vijay has Rs. 250 left with him and plans to start working once the lockdown is relaxed, so he can pay his bills. Meanwhile, Vijay has borrowed Rs. 500 from his previous employer, saying, “I will work for him for free for two days in order to repay him.” Vijay has a home in the village, but he does not wish to return, “We won’t get work in the village. In the city, we will go wherever and do whatever work we get, as long as we get the money.” Vijay and his family find the ration provided by the government helpful, but insufficient. Vijay’s bank account was deactivated due to non-usage and he is unsure where the government schemes benefits are being deposited for his family, “If the government can help by sending us money by post that would be helpful. It would be preferred that they come and deliver the money to our homes.”

Vijay is cautiously optimistic about the future, “I think we will start getting work in some time, but I think it will take time for us to recover. I will have to work double time to make up for the economic loss.”



“If MGNREGS is starting then hopefully we will get work.”

Aarti, Female, 35
Rural, Haryana
Agricultural labourer

35-year-old Aarti lives with her husband and their three sons in rural Haryana. Aarti works as an agricultural labour and also does MGNREGA work in the village. Her work on the farm has been reduced from eight hours a day to five hours due to the COVID-19 crisis, leading to reduced pay. Aarti and her husband have borrowed money from the farm owners and plan on repaying their debt by working extra hours on the farm. They have also borrowed money from the village Sarpanch, describing, “We have borrowed about Rs. 2,000 from the Sarpanch. We will pay them back by working for a few days without pay.”

Aarti’s biggest concern right now is the wellbeing of her family and children. Her family has received 20 kg of rice and oil from PDS but Aarti finds it insufficient. “Our biggest need right now is food, we need vegetables, salt, spices, wheat, oil and other supplies. If we get this from the government it will help us.” Their meals have reduced from three meals a day to two, due to a shortage of food.

Aarti was recently called by MGNREGA to start working. “They have our phone numbers when we sign up for the card. So they called us on the phone and asked us to come for work.” Aarti believes that MGNREGA will provide stable employment in the coming months. If there is no work through MGNREGA she will look for work on the farms. However, Aarti prefers MGNREGA work since the money is deposited directly in the bank, saying, “They give us money once in 15 days. I get an SMS when I receive the money.”

Early Child Development


“We think education is the most important necessity for us right now, I think it is as important as getting food for us.”

Mukesh, Male, 40
Urban, Bihar
Daily wage labourer

Mukesh is 40 years old and lives with his wife and children in a city in Bihar. Mukesh works as a labourer on construction sites but was unable to go to work during the lockdown. Since the past week, with gradual easing of the lockdown, he has been slowly able to resume work.

Mukesh thinks it will take his family two months to recover from the financial setback, “I have to work more now to recover and bring more money in the house. We used to work for eight hours a day, now maybe we will work for ten hours a day.” However, Mukesh says that the pace of work has been reduced due to delay in construction materials reaching the site, and social distancing, which makes work slower. Mukesh is feeling better now than he was at the start of the lockdown, saying, “In general things are not too difficult right now. First, we used to find difficulty in going to the market. Now we are able to move freely, also since work has resumed, things are better.”

However, he is concerned about his children’s education. His children attend online classes through his or his wife's mobile phone. Mukesh finds the mobile phone recharges expensive, but believes that it is a necessary expense for the sake of his children's education. “If their education doesn't continue then it will be troublesome. We think education is the most important necessity for us right now. I think it is as important as getting food for us.”

Early Child Development


“They are not meeting their friends or socialising like they used to in school, so the children are getting affected.”

Durba, Female, 38
Urban, West Bengal
Casual labourer (garment industry)

38-year-old Durba stays with her husband and children in a city in West Bengal. Durba works in the garment industry, but the factory has been closed since the lockdown. Durba’s husband sells vegetables, but he hasn’t been able to go to the market to sell them for a while, due to the COVID-19 crisis. Durba and her family are facing a shortage of food and basic essentials. There has been some relief in the form of meal packets from the local political party office, free ration from PDS and Rs. 500 in Durba’s Jan Dhan account.

Durba’s biggest concern is her children’s wellbeing. Before the lockdown, the children used to go to school where they got midday meals consisting of eggs and fish and now the meal quality and quantity at home has reduced. “The children are not meeting their friends or socialising like they used to in school, so they are getting affected. I want to buy them toys and keep them engaged but we don’t have the means to. There is a very evident change in them, they throw tantrums, they get angry easily, they are always trying to go outside the house. After two months of the lock down I can see that they are acting restless and getting angrier.”

Earlier, Durba was able to go to work in the morning and come back and take care of the house, but now because she is at home all day, she has to manage her husband’s and her children’s needs. Durba and her husband have started to get into a lot of fights and Durba has started hitting her children. Her husband’s drinking habits are also affecting the family. “He would come home drunk, use bad words and behave badly with me in front of the children,” she says. Durba is worried about her children witnessing these fights and the impact it will have on them in the long run. “My neighbour came to me and advised me to stop fighting because it was affecting my children who are at home all day. So, I sat with my husband and we spoke about what we both had to accept, to reduce our fighting. Since then we have been doing better. My biggest reason to stop fighting has been for my children, I don’t want them to get affected by this.”

Mental Health

Stress on Income Providers

“It’s fine if I am worried, but I don’t want to pass it onto the children. They should not worry about their father not being able to earn.”

Prem, Male, 42
Rural, Rajasthan
Casual labourer

Prem is 42 years old and lives with his wife and children in rural Rajasthan. Prem works on construction sites, but has not been able to find work since the lockdown. “We have saved about Rs. 8000 and have Rs. 3000 left, it should last us 15 days. Money from Ujjwala and Jan Dhan has been helpful too. If we get more help from the government that will be great, but if not, then we will have to borrow money from our relatives.”

Prem and his family's diet has been compromised due to loss of income. “We can make it work on the free wheat ration, but it’s not proper food. We eat twice a day, for one meal we eat vegetables and for the other we have just some pickle and chutney.” Prem believes that even once work resumes, it will not progress at the same pace as before, saying, “first we were able to go to many places to work. But now people will be afraid to ask us to come and work in their homes.”

Prem says that due to the lockdown, everyone is at home all the time, resulting in complaints and tensions. He is worried about buying essential supplies for his household. Before the lockdown, he used to work and provide his family with everything they needed. Due to the lockdown and uncertainty of employment, Prem is stressed. He shares, “I am a bit old fashioned, so I don’t share my worries and don’t like to talk about it. It’s fine if I am worried, but I don’t want to pass it onto the children. They should not worry about their father not being able to earn. I sometimes share it with my wife. She tells me everything that is bothering her and everything that is needed at home since I am the provider.”

Mental Health

Stress on Women

“I have to put up a strong face and be courageous for my husband."

Safina, Female, 33
Urban, Kerala

Safina, a 33-year-old homemaker and a micro finance (MFI) group member, lives in urban Kerala with her two sons, husband, and in-laws. The food relief she has been receiving from the local church and political parties has kept her family going during the lockdown, since her husband's work as a truck driver has reduced.

In the face of financial hardship, Safina states, “Personal needs take second place. I’m actively prioritising my family’s needs over my own.” She has cut out personal expenses like shampoo, new clothes, and sanitary pads. The lockdown and her household’s financial situation has been causing a lot of stress for Safina, who says, “I have to put up a strong face and be courageous for my husband because I want him and us to be ok. But I’m also very stressed and tense in reality. I want my husband to think that I am happy and care-free so that he doesn’t get stressed. So, I don’t share my stress with him. But I am stressed all the time. So much so that I’m seeking advice to deal with the increase in stress now. If I have a health episode, how will we afford that now? Who will take care of my in-laws, kids and husband if something happens to my health?”

Safina partially manages her stress by talking to her fellow MFI group members. “We listen to each other’s problems and I find it very comforting.”

Mental Health

Time Poverty

“Earlier they used to go to work in the morning and I could rest for sometime. Now I have to keep working the entire day to meet their needs.”

Baldeep, Female, 35
Rural, Punjab

35-year-old Baldeep lives with her son and husband in rural Punjab. Baldeep’s husband works in a factory that cuts and packs vegetables. He gets paid on a monthly basis, but because of the lockdown, the factory is closed. “He got a job in a factory five days before the lockdown. So we didn’t have any savings to fall back on.” Baldeep and her husband are managing the household finances by borrowing money from their neighbours. She says, “We tell them that we will return money once we start working. But our cumulative loan is now about Rs 15,000. We have borrowed some food as well.”

Baldeep’s priority is to pay back their loans once her husband is able to return to work, because she wants to maintain a trusting relationship with the lenders in case they have to borrow money in the future. But Baldeep is unsure about their repayment plans. “People who have money can afford to make plans, the rest of us play it by ear.” At home, Baldeep is experiencing increased household tasks, since her husband and son are both home all day. “Earlier they used to go to work in the morning and I could rest for sometime. Now I have to keep working the entire day to meet their needs.”

Baldeep spends her day looking after her son’s and husband's needs. Because her husband doesn’t help her with household tasks, Baldeep performs all of them and is busy all day long. “I get some time to rest after 1pm, but otherwise I don’t get to rest on most days.” Baldeep speaks to her neighbour and they share their troubles with each other, “We borrow vegetables and oil from each other. I give it to her when she needs it.”



“Earlier [my daughters] could use the toilet in the college, but now they have to go outside.”

Bimal, Male, 44
Rural, West Bengal
Agricultural labourer

Bimal, an agricultural labourer, lives with his wife and two college-going daughters in rural West Bengal. Ever since the lockdown began, he has had to stop going to the farm where he works. His daughters' college is closed too, but they continue learning through online classes on their relatives smartphone. Recharging the phone's data pack is a financial strain, and they sometimes rely on a relative or a teacher for this.

Despite efforts to get their own toilet, the household does not have one yet. Bimal says,"We had submitted a request to the Panchayat, but we haven’t received a toilet yet. We have to go outside for defecation." Having to go outside poses problems for Bimal’s wife and daughters, and the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown have magnified these challenges. "We are facing issues for our daughters to leave the house. Earlier they could use the toilet in the college, but now they have to go outside. It’s becoming difficult for the women to leave the house. They leave either very early in the morning or late at night. We have an open area right next to our house so we go there, so it's safe. We have a bamboo forest near our house so the women go there by themselves, not in groups."

Bimal feels bad about not being able to afford good food for his daughters, or sanitary pads. He is concerned about their marriage, affording their tuition, and a new smartphone for their online classes, but says, "My daughters understand that there is no money so how can I meet the high requirements."


Menstrual Hygiene

“How can we afford pads if there's a shortage of money? We use cloth.”

Sneha, Female, 21
Rural, Uttar Pradesh

21-year-old Sneha stays with her parents, two sisters and two younger brothers in rural Uttar Pradesh. Sneha’s father works as a carpenter in a nearby workshop but hasn’t been able to work since the lockdown. “If there’s less food, we make less, eat less. We put more water in the dal and eat whatever there is,” she describes. Sneha had just finished her 12th standard exams and aspired to begin medical school this year, but says, “Now there’s a lockdown, so I can't do that.” Sneha is unsure if she will be able to pursue her higher education once the lockdown ends, due to her family's loss of income.

Due to shortage of money, Sneha and her sisters are finding it difficult to buy sanitary pads. “How can we afford pads, if there's a shortage of money? We use cloth. Pads were better, cloth is more difficult. Before the lockdown, I would get them from the market, it was all open. Now, there’s less money.” They repurpose old clothes, she says, “We take cotton fabric available at home from used clothes. We only use it once and then we throw it. We take a different piece of cloth each time. We can’t clean the cloth and use it again if it’s been used once. We throw it away.” As Sneha and her family live far away from the village centre, they don’t have access to an Aanganwadi. “We live on the road, Anganwadi is in the village, so we don’t have any interaction with them.”

Sneha is now taking on additional household chores owing to the family members' extended time at home, and is learning tailoring from her older sister, who makes some money from it. Sneha is planning to take on vocational training as a beautician if she is unable to study medicine. She says, “Women go to beauty parlours, so women only do the job. There are no challenges with that.” Sneha would prefer studying over work, but given her family's financial situation, she might have to give it up altogether.


Medicinal Needs

“It’s okay if we go hungry once in a while, but I want to make sure that my kids get their medicines.”

Manjit, Male, 48
Urban, Punjab
Factory worker

Manjit is 48 years old and stays with his son and daughter in a city in Punjab. Manjit works in a factory, but since the lockdown the factory has been shut and he has been unable to go to work. Both his children aren’t able to go to work either. “There are a lot of difficulties. We used to earn and eat but now we are unable to. We are using whatever we have saved, but we’ve spent most of the saved money. We are managing with whatever we get from the government ration.” Manjit does not believe that he will be able to resume work any time soon. He says, “All the people who used to work in the factory have gone back to their homes so there is no one available to produce the fabric.”

Manjit is most worried about his children’s medical needs. Their doctor had advised them to stock up medicines before the lockdown, but they are still facing difficulties. “My daughter needs injections, she needs five. We were able to give her three, but the remaining two we were unable to get because of the lockdown. So we need to find a way to resume that.” Manjit is hoping the lockdown ends soon so that his children are able to get their required medicines. “It’s okay if we go hungry once in a while, but I want to make sure that my kids get their medicines.”

Manjit thinks that his family will need support once the lockdown is over due to limited employment opportunities and because they have already exhausted their savings. “We will need ration and other supplies to sustain our food needs. We will also need help with my kids' medicines.”

Vulnerable Groups

Elderly and Disabled

“I’m sure the government is doing a lot, but it doesn’t reach my house. If this situation continues, then we have no way of sustaining ourselves.”

Vaishali, Female, 29
Urban, Maharashtra
Person with disability
Small jobs on farm and temporary odd jobs

Vaishali is a high school graduate who stays with her brother and parents in a town in Maharashtra. She works on the farm and takes on other part-time jobs, like filling forms for people. ​Her father works at a local shop, but his work has stopped due to the COVID-19 crisis. Vaishali’s father and mother are both keeping unwell.

Although Vaishali is well informed about old age and disability pension schemes, and avails them for her family, she is uncertain about the ration distribution—whether it is free or paid and the documents required to avail it. Someone in her village, who is also a person with a disability, informed her that the government will distribute additional ration in a few days. She’s sure it will be crowded and has decided to wait. “If I have to get any scheme, I have to go myself and sign to get it. Only once I go there will I know if it’s free or not.” Receiving government benefits has been especially hard for her because of her locomotor disability. "I will have to go and ask the controller. I will take my father’s ration card, my disability certificate and tell them that I am deserving of this scheme so I should get it. I will have to go walking and come back walking - with my legs and speed it takes about half an hour one way. But my condition is so bad that I can’t keep going all the time."​

She thinks it will be useful to get a message on her phone with details of the schemes and the availability date. Vaishali believes that having an official number to call and confirm, and doorstep delivery of the cash and ration, would be the most helpful for her.​

Vulnerable Groups

Non Registered Users

“They keep telling us that the government will help, but we haven’t received anything yet.”

Asim, Male, 22
Urban, Uttar Pradesh
Daily wage labourer

22-year-old Asim lives in a city in Uttar Pradesh with his family. Asim works as a painter on construction sites but has been out of work since the lockdown. “I have a ration card. The last time I got a ration was in April. We usually pay Rs. 100, this time also we paid Rs. 100. We got rice and dal.”

Asim has tried to register his mother to receive pension, but with little success, “For a year we’ve been running around to get the pension for my mother, but we haven’t heard anything yet. So we stopped going there. We had even paid money for the form, but we haven’t received anything.” Asim is not aware about government schemes that he might be eligible for. “I haven’t heard of any government schemes. We stay in our home, we don’t have TV. I have a keypad button phone so we haven’t got any SMS or messages either.”

Loss of income, exhausted savings and inability to access government schemes has made it difficult for Asim and his family to meet their daily requirements. “Our problems have increased. We don’t have a lot of requirements in terms of alcohol or smoking, but we need money for food and to pay rent. We should get help from somewhere, somehow. We meet someone on the street, they give us rice and dal. We got it once not after that. We manage the rest on the little ration that we get.”

Vulnerable Groups

Transgender Community

“Even before the lockdown, we haven’t received pension for anyone from the transgender community.”

Asmita, Trans woman, 33
Urban, Telangana
Sex worker (previously - NGO manager)

Asmita is a 33-year-old trans woman who used to work on outreach projects for an NGO. Once the project ended last year, she couldn't find other work and had to resort to asking for money from shops and sex work to make ends meet. She currently lives in a city in Telangana with seven other people from her community. The police have been brutal, harassing them on the pretext of the lockdown.

The lockdown rules, lack of support from NGOs and the police have made it very hard for Asmita to get clients for sex work and go to shops to ask for money. "Before the lock down, the NGO used to give us condoms and lubricants by coming home. But they haven’t given us anything in the past two months. We can’t take clients unless we have these supplies." Most people in her community have lost their incomes. Her only source of food is an NGO and her guru (mentor), who provides her with ration and cooked meals sometimes. "Sometimes we go to the market and ask for vegetables. Sometimes we manage just with roti and chutney."​

Asmita is unable to access government relief due to enrollment and documentation issues. She applied for a ration card a year ago but still hasn’t received it. “Most of us don’t even have a ration card. We are enrolled in our families’ ration cards, but about 80% of us stay away from our families.” Asmita experienced difficulties availing government entitlements even before COVID-19 and due to this crisis, her problems have magnified. She has heard about Jan Dhan but doesn’t know anyone in the trans community who has a bank account. “We are still fighting for our rights, but the government is not giving us entitlements under any scheme. We need the government to give us ration, medicines and money for sustenance to buy vegetables, groceries and clothes."​

During the Covid-19 crisis, we had the chance to interview people across India. Men, women, third gender people, farmers, labourers, housewives shared with us their stories of coping with the pandemic, and strategies they employed to meet their basic needs. These stories sit side by side to the data, and highlight the lived experiences of people during the pandemic. While the focus of the qualitative interviews was to uncover stories behind the data, the rich conversations with people helped to throw light on other topics (such as education, women’s health etc), that are not covered by the present study, but which will be addressed in subsequent studies. All names have been changed to protect privacy.