Bihar government conducted surveys for those who did not have a ration card but were in the transport sector such as rickshaw pullers. The Delhi government relied on MLA’s and other executives and gave them 2000 e-coupons each to be distributed to those who were left out of all systems and databases.
Apart from food relief efforts, state governments tried to provide cash and shelter assistance as well. Financial relief was announced to Jan Dhan account holders by the central government. Even direct benefit transfers also were inadequate largely due to low coverage and weak banking infrastructure. Many new forms of occupations such as domestic workers, sex workers, gig workers came to be recognised as equally vulnerable to shocks. Some governments tried to capture these in their relief efforts but largely remained unsuccessful due to inadequate data.
For instance, Tamil Nadu tapped into its existing welfare board whose members included scavengers and transgenders to provide cash assistance. Andhra Pradesh through a government order set up special shelter centres for beggars and homeless people in an effort to capture everyone who is left out of the system.
Moreover, many people were simply left out because our current databases were designed according to poverty lines that cannot target the informal workforce. The kind of flexibility that was shown by state governments was lacking in pre-pandemic infrastructure.
As governments are moving into recovery approaches, it is crucial that we don’t blindly go back to our pre-pandemic social protection systems. These systems are highly exclusionary and inadequate as shown.