With the rapid transmission of the second wave of the pandemic, we conducted a rapid situation analysis of the urban poor between 15–18 April 2021. This survey covered 297 households¹ (comprising 1432 individuals) residing in 35+ communities (in slums, resettlement colonies, urban villages, the homeless), across 4 MMR cities — Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Panvel and Vasai–Virar. This article presents a brief summary of the initial findings.
Findings point to a similar trend across cities with regard to loss of work, wages and inability to access basic needs. Many households report being able to earn, but even more report uncertainty about the future given the nature of their work. It is clear that a stricter lockdown would mean deeper deprivations, especially since the poor are yet to recover from the 2020 lockdown. Many have taken to casual labour work, searching for any work available.
‘It has been 15 months since I last worked’, said Sanjay Qureshi from Mumbai, who earned his living selling toys at local fairs.
‘My family member took the vaccine and has been feeling okay. But due to COVID, work has stopped’, said Madhuri Sedke, a homemaker from Mumbai.
For a quick look at the key insights, check our summary graphics. Detailed survey findings follow.
Respondents’ nature of work and earned wage
- Respondents reported being employed in 40+ different kinds of occupations, primarily in the informal sector.
- Most of them work either as domestic workers or construction workers (23 per cent each), as street vendors (14 per cent), are homemakers (11 per cent), and 5 per cent each were engaged in the private sector, or are home based workers, auto drivers, beggars, as well as students.
- 42 per cent respondents are daily-wage earners, while 34 per cent earn a monthly salary, and 8 per cent earn a weekly wage. 1 per cent reported having 2 jobs and have daily-wage and salaried jobs. 1 per cent mentioned that the nature of wage they earned was task based. 15 per cent mentioned ‘not applicable’ to this question (comprising primarily homemakers and students).
Kalim Khan is a plumber and painter from Vasai. A major way in which he accesses work is via the naka (the labour market at specified road junctions where labourers congregate for work). However, in the past week he has only managed to get two days of work, and that too via the phone. He feels there is only a 50 per cent chance he may get work for the next seven days. ‘Two of my sons are also construction workers but they are also currently unemployed’, he says.
Champa Ben, a transgender person, earns her living by begging, travelling from Bhayander to Borivali daily. With no income at present, no family support and no social security net, Champa is unable to afford rent and pay for food and essentials.
Work prospects in the past and coming week
- Only 16 per cent were able to work the full week in the past 7 days, while 27 per cent were not able to get any work, and 41 per cent mentioned working only for a few days in the week. 15 per cent mentioned not applicable for this response.
- Looking at the next 7 days, 30 per cent mentioned they don’t know if they will get work, 29 per cent said it would be impossible for them to find work. 18 per cent mentioned a 50 per cent likelihood of finding work, while 8 per cent were sure of being employed in the coming week. 15 per cent mentioned not applicable for this response.
- Nearly 55 per cent families are currently single earner households (with co-earners employed in malls, in domestic work, as drivers, construction workers, etc. forced to stay at home due to the closure of work sites, lack of transportation, etc.).
Vimal Chavan, a security guard from Mumbai, the only income earner in his family, mentioned that right now as he is able to travel to work he is getting paid, but in case of a complete lockdown he will not be able to earn anymore. Currently he is cycling to his worksite as he is not allowed to use trains or buses. He fears how he will pay his rent and food expenses. He is also unsure if he will get his full salary next month, if the situation worsens.
‘My wife worked as a domestic worker earlier, and her earnings supported the family needs. But due to the virus spread, the housing society she goes to has restricted the entry of domestic workers, so now I am the only income earner’, said Rajesh Tayde, a painter from Navi Mumbai. While he was able to work in the past week, he doesn’t know if he will be able to earn in the coming week.
Vulnerable groups: The homeless, transgender persons, single-parents
- The homeless and transgender persons surveyed, who are largely engaged in waste recycling and begging, were hardly able to work in the past week, or only for a few days. Most of them are unsure if they will be able to work in the coming week. Only one member reported working for the whole week.
- Single parents also expressed worries about being able to continue with their jobs and the fear of job loss.
- Reasons for not being able to work range from the closure of markets, to no access to trains and neighbourhoods for begging; the fear of police harassment if they venture out to work especially for transgender persons and waste recyclers.
Seema Thorat is a single parent with 5 dependents. While she was able to continue her waste recycling work in the past week, she is unsure of whether she will be able to do so in the coming week. ‘Our ration card has some issue so we are not able to access ration. My biggest worry is how we will eat in the coming days’ says this daily wage earner.
Shashikala is the single parent and sole breadwinner of her family of three. While she is currently employed as a domestic worker and does a cleaning job at a clinic, she has joined these jobs recently, being unemployed till last month. She is most worried about loss of work in case of lockdown. ‘How will I feed my children if I have no job’, she says. She is also getting treated for typhoid and given the money constraint is not able to buy her medicines now.
Access to government announced relief for workers
- The Maharashtra government recently announced a one-time transfer of Rs 1,500 to registered construction workers, street vendors, domestic workers and auto & taxi drivers.
- Among the respondents surveyed, only 4 of 51 construction workers were registered (2 more have applications in process), 11 of 31 street vendors were registered, 13 of 50 domestic workers were registered, and 10 of 16 auto drivers were registered.
- Only 25 per cent of the surveyed workers would be eligible for relief.
Access to the public distribution system
- While 64 per cent mentioned having a ration card, many mentioned that their ration card was in their home address in their village, was currently blocked or they were unable to make a ration card in the city as they lived on rent.
- 46 per cent mentioned receiving ration as per quota in the last 2 months.
Mangala Desai, a street vendor from Navi Mumbai has been unable to work in the past week, and is unsure whether she will be able to sell in the coming week too. ‘My son sells fruits, but he has also been sitting at home’, she says, adding that they need to be supported for ration and be allowed to work too, given their current distress.
Fears and challenges
- Main challenges being faced are due to loss of work and reduced mobility (62 per cent each), loss of pay (38 per cent), having less food at home (33 per cent), being unable to get ration from the ration shop (22 per cent), being unable to get medical treatment for existing illnesses (15 per cent), living in a containment zone (9 per cent), and other factors like inability to pay for medication, concerns over children’s education (39 per cent).
- Main fears and changes reported with respect to the community were fears of an impending lockdown (66 per cent), witnessing people returning to their villages (54 per cent), the fear of not having enough to eat (56 per cent), the scare of contracting COVID (52 per cent), and other factors (5 per cent).
‘I am able to continue working online, so I have stayed on in the city else I too would have tried to go home. The situation is progressively getting worse’, said Aditya Jadhav, a teacher in Vasai.
An auto driver in Navi Mumbai shared how approximately 30 families in his community have already left for their village.
‘The season from March–May is a busy time for me, but now all work has stopped and I am worried about how to afford household expenses (the light and water bill, house rent, etc.)’, said Salim Khan, a tailor in Mumbai. Being the sole earner in a family of four who has not worked in the past week and does not anticipate any orders in the coming week, he feels deeply vulnerable.
On vaccination awareness, readiness and hesitation
- Among households with people above the age of 45 years, only 44 per cent stated that they would be interested in being vaccinated, and 25 per cent respondents reported being officially contacted regarding the vaccine,
- Most common reasons for not taking up the vaccine are, having heard rumours about it (38 per cent), not knowing the process of accessing it (37 per cent), being concerned about side effects (22 per cent), hearing of bad experiences post vaccine (5 per cent), and other factors (23 per cent).
‘I don’t know the process for taking the vaccine’, said Arun Sarkate, a tea seller from Vasai, who is the sole earner in his family. He expressed the need for support in vaccination awareness and registration, especially with two members of his family aged over 45 years.
In March 2020, seeing the worsening situation onground, YUVA conducted a rapid assessment across 34 communities in 4 cities of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The findings on people’s access to food and work were alarming. You can read about the assessment here, and the year-long response and rehabilitation work that followed and remains ongoing here.
- 42 per cent survey respondents are from Mumbai, 18 per cent are from Navi Mumbai, and 20 per cent each from Panvel and Vasai–Virar. 55 per cent respondents were female, 45 per cent male, and 2 per cent belonged to the transgender community.
- All identities in the article are masked to maintain confidentiality.