These were some of the most common answers we got while analyzing how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted people in some of the far flung villages of north-eastern Jharkhand, also referred as Santhal Pargana. And even without conducting a survey one could tell that more than 70% of the rural poor depend on remittances to run their household expenses or to fulfill their aspiration of leading a ‘better life’!
It was an early morning call from Nazma Khatun. Her voice was trembling on the other side of the call. She is an SHG member from a small village called Deogawan in Deosar block of Madhya Pradesh. When the nationwide lockdown was first announced in March, our phones got flooded with similar calls from the hamlets.
About 500 people, mostly belonging to the Madiya Gond tribe, inhabit the Katakanda village in Darbha block of Bastar district in Chhattisgarh. Being marginal farmers with an average annual income of Rs. 30,000 and literacy level as poor as 26 per cent, the Katakanda villagers lacked the confidence to address issues that had kept bothering them since ages. Even, raising their voices for the malpractices in the local Ration shop was something they avoided.
March, April, May are months with special relevance for families in Nayatola, Bikhjhariya, and several other villages of Sarai tehsil in Madhya Pradesh. Most of them, being marginal or small-holder farmers, depend on their neighboring forests to collect Mahua and Tendu leaves, along with a variety of other non-timber forest products.
The Government of India introduced the Public Distribution System for the distribution of food grains at affordable prices and management of food-scarce situations. Over the past few years, the term PDS has become interchangeable with the term “food security” and also an integral part of the government’s policy for the management of the food economy in the country.