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APSC/UPSC Model Question & Answers | General Studies II

Q2. The wider coverage of the public distribution system (PDS) and a promise for employment in rural areas have perhaps cushioned the blow to some extent compared to urban areas. Discuss the need for an Urban employment guarantee in this regard.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance  of  expanding  social  security nets. The experience for the urban poor is a kind of syndemic: a juxtaposition of the healthcare crisis due to the pandemic and the daily precarity of having to deal with hunger and uncertainty about livelihoods.

Syndemic for Urban Poor means Dual attack of:

  1. The healthcare   crisis    due   to    the pandemic
  2. The daily precarity of having to deal with hunger and uncertainty about livelihoods
What saved the Rural Poor:
  1. First wave not much in rural areas, agricultural ops unaffected by Lockdowns
  2. Good harvest, MSP based procurement
  3. Better coverage of PDS
  4. Functioning MGNREGA saved livelihoods
  5. PM-KISAN support
Urban Poor more vulnerable:
  1. As per the State of Working India report 2021 of Azim Premji University, poverty rates in rural areas have increased by 15 percentage points (pp) and by 20 pp in urban
  2. Hunger Watch survey focussed on understanding the hunger and livelihood situation  among  marginalised  communities  such  as  daily wage workers, single women households, people  with  disability,
  3. The differential impact on rural  and  urban  populations  came  across in this. Incomes reduced by half/quarter for more than  half the urban respondents while it was a little over one-third for rural respondents.
  4. For instance, 60% of Muslims, 51% of Dalits, 58% of older persons without caregivers and 56% of single women-headed households went to bed without a meal at least
Way Forward:
  1. With over 100 million tonnes of food grain stocks in the Food Corporation of India warehouses (as of May 2021),  we must universalise rations
  2. The Central government must immediately expand the  coverage  and quantity under the NFSA for at least one year, increase MGNREGA entitlements to 200 days per household for those who returned home
  3. Initiate consultations for an urban employment programme and
  4. Offer a wage compensation of ₹7,000 per poor household for the next few months

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