Our work on social protection is induced by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The pandemic forced the government of India to announce a nationwide lockdown as a precautionary measure to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This resulted in a large-scale return of migrant laborers, loss of jobs, food shortages, and erosion of livelihoods of the poor. With routine programs on halt, we readily embraced a strategy to support the state governments’ response to COVID-19 in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand and the National Rural Livelihood Mission at the national level.
Of these states, Uttar Pradesh alone accounted for one-fourth of the total 21.5 million migrant workers across the country, which is estimated to have had an influx of about 4 million return migrants. With funding support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and in partnership with TRIF, we launched an embedded cell in the Department of Rural Development (DoRD) under the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. The cell provides technical support to DoRD in conceptualizing and implementing strategies for providing employment opportunities to at least 10 million vulnerable households including the return migrants, and, linking Self-Help Group (SHG) women to various government entitlements such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
This is PCI India’s first foray into social protection work. Currently, in addition to our work with the DoRD, PCI has also partnered with KPMG to conduct a primary study to understand the status of migrant labor in India with a special focus on social protection in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of this JICA funded study, we are going to undertake primary research in two large metro cities – Delhi and Mumbai and four districts from two prominent out-migrating states in India. PCI is in the process of expanding its work around social protection including research and implementation. It has recently joined the Uttar Pradesh COVID-19 Economic Recovery Alliance (UPCERA) to create a supportive ecosystem focused on economic recovery and resilience of marginalized communities impacted by the pandemic in Uttar Pradesh in partnership with government of Uttar Pradesh.