ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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COVID-19 Lockdown and Human Development

Deprivation and State Response in Maharashtra

Maharashtra has emerged as the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the trade-off between lockdowns to flatten the infection curve and saving an already slow economy, there is a significant human cost, thus exposing and deepening the existing structural inequalities. The article maps and analyses the impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown based on the three dimensions of human development—health and nutrition, education, and livelihood. Given the acute shortage of food supplies for certain groups during the period, the article examines the government response by analysing the implementation of food programmes.  


The views expressed are those of the authors and not of UNICEF.

The authors are grateful to Rajeshwari Chandrasekar of UNICEF in Maharashtra and Abhay Pethe from the University of Mumbai for their valuable feedback on the preliminary draft. The authors are thankful to the anonymous reviewers and editors for their comments and suggestions.

Almost two years following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every country in the world continues to grapple with the increasing pressures on health systems and resources. India has been among the worst affected. Apart from the loss of lives and long-term impact on health, the first wave of the pandemic also spelt doom for the Indian economy. In an attempt to contain the spread of the virus and time to build the health infrastructure, the Government of India had announced a national lockdown on 24 March 2020. This stringent lockdown (Hale et al 2020), which lasted for nearly 40 days, was followed by a staggered opening of the economy from 4 May. This lockdown period witnessed complete closure of all activities, barring a few essential services, such as pharmacies, medical clinics and hospitals, grocery stores, and vegetable/fruit markets. With economic activity coming to a grinding halt, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 23.9% in the April–June quarter of the financial year (FY) 2020–21. In the process, significant ­human suffering was experienced, expo­sing and deepening existing structural inequalities.

Socio-economic vulnerabilities originate from the intersecting structures of caste, class, and gender. These manifest in the form of inequitable access to or control over resources, which in turn ­determines the ability of individuals or groups to cope with crises. In the context of the COVID-19 humanitarian crisis, the most vulnerable were low-income or ­resource-deprived households, who were further pushed into the downward spiral of poverty. These included homeless people, slum dwellers, migrants, and informal workers. Additionally, ailing people, persons with disabilities, transgender persons, the elderly, and children were susceptible to deprivations due to their specific vulnerabilities.

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Updated On : 23rd Sep, 2021
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