The short-term effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on rural communities and self-help group members

Project Active from to COVID-19

India has imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world and it is important to understand whether existing and new welfare schemes are being implemented effectively enough to provide support to households that lose their livelihoods, especially in rural areas.

This project uses remote data collection to improve our general understanding of how households are coping with the economic and psychological effects of the lockdown. Importantly, we will collect data not just from households, but also from local government officials to help better understand policy implementation and the role of coordination between NGOs and local governments. In addition, based on conversations with local police officers, we hope to gather evidence on changes in the reporting of crimes, such as domestic violence.

We are partnering with the NGO ‘PRADAN’ to track the effects of the reopening on a group of rural women and their families. These women are members of PRADAN's self-help groups (SHGs). PRADAN works in some of the poorest areas of India, including Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and West Bengal. Understanding the exact needs and problems facing this group of women and their households ¬– and how they cope with these issues – will also improve our understanding of large covariate shocks more generally. This could become especially important if there is a second wave of infections in the winter of 2020/2021.

Data will be collected through telephone surveys. We intend to undertake this research in Madhya Pradesh, India. A team of 10 female enumerators will interview 400 SHG members every other week till the end of November. This will allow us to examine the instantaneous impacts of changes in government policies and changes in the employment situation. We are particularly interested in income, savings, domestic violence, transfers, government transfers, employment opportunities, hardship, stress and aspirations. The sample of women will be drawn from 80 different Gram Panchayats.

A team of four male enumerators will also interview the presidents of the Gram Panchayats in which the SHG members reside and the local police officers. These surveys will allow us to obtain information about actions taken by local governments and whether there are any reported increases in crime, especially domestic violence.