Some 122 million Indians were forced out of jobs last month alone, according to estimates from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a private sector think tank.
Daily wage workers and those employed by small businesses have taken the worst hit. These include hawkers, roadside vendors, workers employed in the construction industry and many who eke out a living by pushing handcarts and rickshaws.
For Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014 promising to lift the poorest citizens out of poverty, the fallout from the lockdown brings with it significant political risk.
The World Bank and the CMIE estimates were published in late April and early May respectively. Since then the situation has only become grimmer, with harrowing images of people making desperate attempts to reach their villages, on crowded buses, the flatbeds of trucks and even on foot or on bicycles dominating media coverage.
The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business analyzed the unemployment data from the CMIE, collected through surveys covering about 5,800 homes across 27 states in April.
Researchers found rural areas were the hardest hit, and the economic misery was the result of the lockdown, rather than the spread of infections in the hinterland. More than 80% of households had experienced a drop income and many won’t survive much longer without aid, they wrote in a report.
The economy was already growing at its slowest pace in over a decade when the virus struck.
The lockdown, which came into effect on March 25, has hammered it, stalling business activity and putting a lid on consumption, pushing the economy to what may be its first full-year contraction in more than four decades.
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