According to a study released on Wednesday by Azim Premji University, the government would need to implement a relief package worth Rs 8 lakh crore to alleviate the economic difficulties faced by lower-income groups as a result of COVID-19’s economic effect. Consumer Pyramids Household Survey, Azim Premji Foundation, and many other civil society organisations contributed to the study.

According to estimates based on CMIE-CPHS data, due to the effect of COVID-19 on the economy, about 23 crore people are projected to have dropped below the national minimum wage poverty line, and around 1.5 crore jobs are expected to remain jobless by the end of 2020, according to the study titled State of the Work 2021.

Between late 2019 and late 2020, nearly half of formal salaried employees migrated into informal jobs, either as self-employed (30%), casual wage (10%), or informal salaried (9%) workers, with a corresponding drop in their wages.

According to the survey, the poorest 20% of households lost their entire income in April and May, while the wealthier households lost less than a quarter of their pre-pandemic incomes.

The Azim Premji University report released on Wednesday recommended steps to alleviate the misery of people affected by COVID-19, which would cost the government an additional Rs 8 lakh crore.

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“Between this year and last, the policies we suggest would push the government of India’s spending to 4.5 percent of GDP, or around Rs 8 lakh crore. We believe that this is not even remotely comparable to what other countries have accomplished, but it is precisely what India requires “Amit Basole, an associate professor of economics at Azim Premji University, said during the release of the study.

According to the survey, approximately 30% of citizens in some states did not receive rations under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana, which requires further investigation.

“We found that about 30% of PDS priority ration cardholders did not receive the extra grains, at least in these two states (Karnataka and Rajasthan), and this number is broadly similar in a few other states that we have done as part of our other COVID livelihood survey,” Basole said.

The public distribution system, according to the study, has a broader scope than the Jan Dhan Yojana, and free rations under the PDS should be extended beyond June, at least until the end of 2021. In Karnataka and Rajasthan, 60% of women with Jan Dhan accounts received one or more transfers, 30% did not receive any transfers, and 10% were unaware of the fund status in their account, according to the study.

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According to the university study, a three-month cash transfer of Rs 5,000 should be made to as many marginalised households as possible using existing digital infrastructure, such as Jan Dhan accounts.

According to the study, the programme budget must be increased to at least Rs 1.75 lakh crore.

It also suggests launching a pilot urban employment programme in the worst-affected districts, increasing the central contribution in old-age pensions to at least Rs 500, providing a COVID hardship allowance of Rs 30,000 to 25 lakh Anganwadi and ASHA workers, and automatically enrolling all MGNREGA workers who do construction work as registered workers

“Various organisations, including the Azim Premji Foundation and Azim Premji Philanthropic Programs, the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy, and several civil society organisations, have all contributed to getting the knowledge that we have been able to gather,” Basole said.