India’s Policy Response to COVID-19 and the Gendered Impact on Urban Informal Workers in Delhi NCR: Thematic Brief 4: Policy Responses and Impact on Shelter
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In the underbelly of India’s metro cities, urban informal workers have always had poor access to safe and affordable shelter. With COVID infections rising in the cities, informal workers struggled to make rents due to loss of income, ensuing the trigger of a large scale reverse migration. According to an expert during a KII, newspapers would not have been flooded with images of returning migrants if they had an option of safe and dignified housing in the cities they were helping build. It also showed how little the policymakers understood and accounted for the intersectional realities of informal work, migration, poverty, and insecure housing for millions of these workers. It was suggested that close to 60 million migrants moved back to their states, shocking the economic system of the country with low labour availability. Despite directives from the government to landlords not to ask for rent for the period of lockdown, there were many cases of violation as the landlords also depend on rents as their sole source of income in several cases. Some of the employed women workers also had to quit and leave with their family to native places, as men lost their jobs. This may be indicative of the inability of the family to sustain on a single income or the value assigned to women’s work.