Policy Watch No.13

The Migrant Economy During the Pandemic: An Exploratory Study in Baisi Block, Bihar

Migration from India's villages is linked to poverty, the lack of livelihood opportunities and, in some States, feudal structures that dominate rural societies.  COVID-19 and the lockdown implemented on March 24, 2020, to contain the spread of the pandemic resulted in traumatic conditions for migrant workers stranded across India.

Bihar is second only to Uttar Pradesh in the number of out-migrants. In this Policy Watch, Girija Shankar and Rakhi Kumari discuss the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in Baisi, a block (sub-district) in Bihar, from where workers move to 17 States and Nepal as short-term migrants.  In an exploratory study conducted in April 2020, they find that the lockdown resulted in drastic changes in villages: the rural economy was disrupted, spending priorities had changed, and savings and investments fell. Interventions by the Union and State governments appeared to have a minimal effect on boosting demand and providing sustainable income support opportunities.

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