Author team paints a bleak picture of India’s social policy response to the pandemic

In their essay, Stefan Kühner, Keerty Nakray and Daniel Neff summarise the broad contours and key characteristics of the Indian government’s social policy re­sponse to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing nationwide lockdown (up to the end of September 2020). This far, the authors write, the Indian government’s Covid-19 relief measures have not been able to adequately address the social and economic grief in the country, as there were no adequate safety nets in place to counter immediate social emergencies to begin with.

Not a single piece of new legislation has been implemented in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, the authors found a large "and at times bewildering" array of temporary relief measures by ordinances, specifically targeting distinct groups, for example 'the poorest of the poor', elderly, widows, disabled, farmers, construction workers, unorganised sector workers, and fishermen. Apart from a housing scheme, the authors did not find any new longer-term scheme that has been devel­oped directly in response to the pandemic.

Kühner, Nakray and Neff conclude: "The initial picture suggests that the Indian government’s response to the pandemic prioritised economic and fiscal measures, relied on the existing inadequate safety net, and was not timely enough to support millions of inter-state migrants." Although all measures added up to being fiscally quite expansive, the benefit levels granted fall far short of the sums needed to compensate for Covid-19-related income losses.

The authors’ analysis of policy documents suggests that the Indian government’s Covid-19 crisis response has been merely incremental rather than resulting in any radical or structural adjustments of the In­dian social policy status quo.

Read the full essay and the appendix documenting the government's measures: India’s Social Policy Response to Covid-19: Temporary Relief in a Rigid Welfare Landscape

See the other parts of the series: CRC 1342 Covid-19 Social Policy Response Series


India in lockdown (Photo: ThroughMyEyes, Adobe Stock)
India in lockdown (Photo: ThroughMyEyes, Adobe Stock)