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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 28, New Delhi, June 27, 2020

Covid -19 Lockdown and Plight of Transport Workers: A Study on Rural India | Asish Kumar Pal and Atanu Sengupta

Friday 26 June 2020

by Dr. Asish Kumar Pal, and Dr. Atanu Sengupta


It is already acknowledged that massive losses in various spheres of our socio-economic system have been recorded due to Covid related lockdown. The workers of transport sector are in the informal in Indian economy. Many of these workers are now jobless. These workers are basically marginalised income earners. Most of them are from socio-economically backward families. So they are in a whirlpool of economic hardships fostered by their joblessness. This paper attempts to cover the misery conditions that ensure the cost of living status of these workers throughout the lockdown period. The study also suggests unravelling the impact of the government intervention in their life and livelihood. This is study is based on a result of rapid survey of a group of transport workers.


It is well-known that the workers from the unorganized sector are basically daily or weekly wage earners. They are generally employed as casual workers in underdeveloped countries. They enjoy very little social security facilities. According to United Nation , WFP the people who are daily wage earners will suffer from covid- 19 situation (April,22, webdesk, ABP Ananda). A very recent survey was conducted by (NCAER) National Council of Applied Economic Research included 1,750 participants covering both rural and urban areas of Delhi on (April 3-6, 2020) Released data showed that casual labourers were disproportionately affected. Nearly 75% stating their wages were severely affected which is less than half, at 46% for salaried employees ( April 13, 2020).

According to the report of the Economic Survey released in 2019, the unorganized sector accounts for 93% of the total workforce of the country. Although this sector has a big hand in running the country’s economy, there is no provision to protect it. A survey report has been published by Bhanutej,N, (March, 2020) in Bengaluru.citizenmatters regarding Covid-19 lockdown that states that “Informal workers most affected. It is no doubt as the most of the unorganized labourers are affected by this crisis, the transport workers also affected. Rukmini, S ( March,2020) expressed her opinion about ‘Lockdown to fight coronavirus is going to hit most Indian workers very hard. She also told that most workers have lived on uncertain earnings and emergency measures need to include compensation for them. Many studies have done and much more survey report recently is published in the several new papers relating to the fact of misery situation of several casual daily workers of several sectors of unorganized sector in India due to prolonged lockdown.

But our paper deals with the particular section of unorganised workers- those working in the transport sector. Covid -19 crisis has drastically affected this sector. This has directly impacted on the livelihood of workers who are the vulnerable group such as bus driver, contractor, helper, auto driver and toto driver, taxi driver and all other workers of garage where vehicles are maintained. These workers are mostly daily basis wage earners in the transport sector of the underdeveloped countries. Some of are contractual by low salary. And very few of them are permanent.

 Objectives and analysis:

The objective of study is to unravel the economic conditions which have been impacted on the workers who are related to transport services due to lengthened long down throughout the country. To understand the present scenario of these workers the social conditions have been pulled in our study. The information is collected by interviewing through informative and subjective questionnaires method rapidly from the workers of private bus, taxi drivers, auto drivers, toto drivers and garage workers randomly from the rural area at the time of providing a little cash money by the local union of such workers near to the union office. There are 100 sampled workers who have responded about the disruptions of lockdown that worsened their economic condition.

The analysis is carried out in this paper is descriptive. The socio-economic conditions of the transport workers have been explained by analysing various social and economical characteristics. Now we enter into various collected informations one by one. First we have brought social features of our sample workers.

About 40% of our transport workers are between 26-40 years of age while 30% are in the lower age group. However, 23% are in 40-50 years age group and only 7% are above 50.

Table: 1 (a) Age of the sample transport workers 

Age No of transport relate workers 
15-25 30
26-40 40
40-50 23
Above 50 07

In case of family size, 48% respondents hold 4-8 family members, 46% is in small scale family size while 6% of the sample workers are in larger family group.

Table: 1 (b) Family size of the labourers of transportation 

Average family size No of sample workers 
1-4 46
4-8 48
Above 8 06

Considering the job experience of them we see only 16% have above 20 years of job experience, 33% have1-10 years of job experience while some others 51% have 11-20 years. Thus our sample largely covers the labourers who should have their full working capacity in this sector at the time of sampling in our study area.

Table: 1 (C) Job experience with transport among the workers

Years of job No of transport workers 
1-10 33
11-20 51
Above 20 16

Now, we come to education. 42% of these workers have 5-8 years of schooling. The higher education is rare. Only 13% have more than 12 years of educational experience.

Table: 1 (d) Educational Status of transport workers 

Years of schooling  No of workers 
5-8 42
8-12 45
Above12 13

We have come to know about their housing condition also. They basically live along with family members in kancha ( non-concrete) houses (52%). Although many of them live in Paka (concrete) housing this has come through government scheme. Recently near about 48% have built paka houses under the scheme of ‘Priminister Abas Yojona’ (PMAY).

1 (e) Distribution of housing condition of the labourers who are in transport system 

Type of Housing condition  No of workers 
Paka (Concrete) 48
Kancha (Non-Concrete) 52

92% of daily or weekly wage basis transport workers have responded their livelihoods have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and a very small percentage expect their work to be hit poorer than later. These few have some long-run stable contacts that are yielding them income.

Table: 1(f) Information about the impact on livelihood 

Livelihood affected  92
Livelihood not affected  08

As to the economic background, most of them come from rural non farm (40%) and agricultural families (34%). Actually they are from basically marginal families in rural area. This is revealed in our next table.

Table: 2 (a) Ancestral family occupation of the respondents 

Father’s occupation  No of workers 
Agriculture  34
Rural non farm 40
Urban non farm 08
Government service  03
Private  07
Business  08

Now we look table 2(b), that describes about land holding of these workers in the village. 57% of the respondents have little or a very small amount of agricultural land. 33% respondents out of them are small land holder families. Only 10% belong to larger land holding family.

2 (b) Distribution of land holing households of transport labourers 

Marginal (0-4) bigha 57
Small (5-10) bigha  33
Large holders ( >10 bigha) 10

From the income structure in table: 2 (C) the workers of transport sector (42%) earn money from Rs. 200-400 per day, 38% earns daily from Rs. 401- 600. Only 12% of respondents get money above Rs.600. Again many works under Rs.200 Wage rate per day. It is pointed out that they were all involved in ’No work no pay’ system.

2 (C) No of daily wage workers who earns very little amount 

Income per day  No of labourers in transport 
Rs.200-400 42
 Rs. 401-600 38
Above Rs. 600 12
Below Rs.200 10

Without their labour they can earn very little to maintain their families. Almost 79% have noother source of income.

Table: 2(d) Any other source of income of workers of transport foeld

Identified other source  No of transport related workers 
Yes 21
No 79

The data in the table 2(e) explore a Proportion of consumers and workers in the family of the respondents who are only one earner of the household. Near about 90% of the households have only one income person and only 10% have more than one earner.

Table: 2 (e) Proportion of consumption and workers among transport workers 

No of family of transport workers  No of consumers in family  No of workers 
 58(1-4 members) 4 1
32 (more than 4 members)  6 1
10  10 More than 1

When they are asked about the condition of present income status 79% of them responded they have no income at all. 21% answered they earn taking the scope of another job in agricultural sector such as grocery shop and selling vegetables to the neighbours. Almost all the auto drivers and toto drivers who are the owner of these cars are worried about to repay the bank loan by which they have had bought the cars.

Table: 2(f) The data collected relating to response of job loss among the respondents

Present income condition  No of workers 
Having No income  79
Having income  21

Another important information is tabulated in the table no 2 (g). About 55% have decreased their family consumption to cope up the fall in income.

2 (g) Statistics of expenditure of the workers during lockdown 

Type of expenditure  No of workers 
Decrease  55
Same 45

After being jobless they are literally penniless. There is no job prospect in the village. The little that would have been possible is frustrated by lockout from the work. The joy of staying home is now bulldozed by the need to maintain cost of living.

In order to test their awareness about the government schemes which are provided to the rural people, a series of questions are constructed. The intensity of awareness is measured by the proportion of right answers. For example 80% of the transport workers can identify Job card under MGNREGS that is well known to 100 day’s work. Only 55% of the respondents identities about the concept of BPL card and 73% of them have heard about ‘ Jandhon Yojona Bank Account’.

Table: 3 (a) Awareness of government schemes for the rural people

Government schemes  Yes (awareness) No (awareness)
Job card under MGNREGS 79 21
BPL card 55 45
Jandhon yojona Bank Account  73 27

The details information of beneficiaries of various card holding among the respondents of these workers is collected (table: 3 b). This shows 21 % of respondents holds job card. A massive majority who have shown no interest to hold job card for work in normal times are now in deep trouble . 55% of them has BPL card card and other 45% of them do not occupy such type of card which will help to get food in subsidised rate by government. Only 86% such type of workers have opened bank account under the scheme of Jondhon Yojona’ by central government. Therefore others are not eligible to enjoy direct cash benefit’ by the Central government. The transport related workers who have not occupied such types of holding card are not benefiting in this period.

Table: 3 (b) Government facilities through different card holding among the workers of transport sector 

Types of facility  No of Beneficiary  No of Non beneficiary 
Job card under MGNREGS 21 79
BPL card 65 35
Jandhon yojona Bank Account  86 14

The sample workers complain that they are unable to work in agricultural, rural non farm and any other sectors because of they were engaged in transport sector for a long time. Most respondents are not suitable for other traditional rural jobs. They fear how they will spend the coming days with their families. According to Panchayat pradhan of the selected village, lockdown has forced some of these people to work under MGNREGA programme by using the job card of a registered person on a commission basis.

Table: 3 (C) Their ability to work in another sectors

Sector Ablility to work  Inability to work 
Agriculture  21 79
Rural non farm sector  33 67
Any other sector  27 73

However, when asked about their willingness to come back to transport related working further when lockdown ends, most of the respondents are eager to stay with other works. Only 31% wants to return back. 12% of them have been failure to take decision regarding this issue.

Table 4: Their willingness to return to work after ending lockdown 

Intentions  No of workers of transportation 
Willingness  31
Unwillingness  57
Not responding  12

Suggestive points:

 The government should direct all transport workers and three wheeler owners, taxi owners to pay full salaries to its workers. Banks should be directed to postpone or waive loans and not change interest. Schools where their students are under admitted should be directed to not demand fees right now, and to also not hike the amount this year. These are some initiatives that should be taken up by the government regarding the outbreaking of pandemic. These several measures will lead to ensure that the adverse impact of lockdown and Covid -19 crisis on the marginalised communities in the study is mitigated.

 Conclusion : 

This is the case of our sampled transport workers who covers some portion of the total Informal labourers of unorganized sector in our country. Lockdown situation brings them in economic crisis being jobless. Like all other economic agents of all sectors they also have faced huge financial loss in India in this time. Our analysis has dealt with a long run negative economic consequences for the transport workers who are continuously exposed to this situation. This is a rather broad group. However, the impact varies and it depends on the direct contact with this economic crisis. So, all in all, we have concentrated on basic problems that are associated with lockdown situation and their possible economic outcomes. We hope that our Study will help to focus on these socio — economic effects of lockdown particularly in the rural based underdeveloped economy like India.


A survey report on effects of unorganized labourers due to covid-19, [ ?]

Bhanutej, N, (March 2020),’Covid-19 lockdown: informal workers most affected’, www.

Economic Survey, (2019)

NCAER report, (April, 2020),

Sengupta and Pal (May, 2020), “Lockdown locks the rural economy: Some preliminary signals from a Surveyed village”, in Mainstream, VOL L VIII No 23, New Delhi, May 23, 2020

Rukmini, S (March, 2020), ‘Lockdown to fight coronavirus is going to hit most Indian workers hard,

The Authors:

Dr. Asish Kumar Pal, Assistant Professor, Economics Department, Tarakeswar Degree College, Tarakeswar, Hooghly, West Bengal, India e-mail:[at]


Dr. Atanu Sengupta, Professor, Economics Department, Burdwan University, West Bengal, India email:sengupta_atanu[at]

Notice: A national lockdown underway in India due to the Corona Virus crisis. Our print edition is interrupted & only an online edition is appearing.