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Lives, Livelihoods and Government Support in the Wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Rural Bihar

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Part of the India Studies in Business and Economics book series (ISBE)


By collecting primary data through phone interviews during October 2020 through January 2021, from a sample of more than 1600 households in seven districts of rural Bihar, this study documents the living experience of these households during and following the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020. It focuses on the impacts of the pandemic on different sources of livelihood; select impacts on health, nutrition and education; and the extent of government support received by households. Detailed evidence from the study paints a picture of pervasive and severe impacts where virtually no household or source of livelihood was spared, though with some differentiation by social group and income class. The evidence also points to the meagre level of government support received by households. Many received only a fraction of the promised support at a time when existing safety nets were also compromised to a lesser or greater extent.


This chapter draws upon a larger research project report, “Changing Lives and Livelihoods in the Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic in Rural Bihar”, by the authors for the Centre Development Economics and Sustainability and the Institute for Human Development. Funding for this project was received from the International Growth Centre (IGC), Project #: IND-20095. We are grateful to B. K. N. Singh and Subodh Kumar who organized and coordinated the fieldwork in Bihar, and to the dedicated team of investigators including Prem Kumar, Ranjan Kumar, Nagandra Kumar, Gagendra Kumar, Anit Kumar, Niraj Kumar, Jaswant Rao, Srinivas Pandey and Choton Kumar. We also thank Vikas Dubey, Subodh Kumar and Swayam for their assistance with data management. Our thanks also to Jean Dreze and Alakh N. Sharma for helpful and encouraging feedback.

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  1. 1.

    A catalogue of 92 such COVID impact surveys (at the time of writing) has been compiled by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University ( For a review of the larger multi-state COVID surveys from a food security perspective, see Drèze and Somanchi (2021).

  2. 2.

    For further details on sample selection, sampling weights, survey instruments and organization of fieldwork, see Datt, Dutta and Mishra (2021).

  3. 3.

    OBC-1 category households are those in the “creamy” layer of other backward caste households.

  4. 4.

    As we did not ask for the level of household incomes, we were unable to classify households in terms of per capita income.

  5. 5.

    There were four successive lockdowns between March 24 and May 31, 2020.

  6. 6.

    Calculated over the six-month period at Rs. 300 per month for widow pensions and Rs. 400 per month for old-age and disability pensions. This entitlement also assumes that there is only one eligible member for a particular type of pension if the household reports receiving that pension.


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Correspondence to Gaurav Datt .

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© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

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Datt, G., Dutta, S., Mishra, S.K. (2023). Lives, Livelihoods and Government Support in the Wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Rural Bihar. In: Gupta, I., Das, M. (eds) Contextualizing the COVID Pandemic in India. India Studies in Business and Economics. Springer, Singapore.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-99-4905-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-99-4906-9

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