Kiran Rajashekariah (GIZ – SUDSC), Krishna Kumar (GIZ – SUDSC), Bharath M. Palavalli (Fields of View), Sruthi Krishnan (Fields of View), Harsha K (Fields of View), Ketaki Paranjape (Fields of View), Vaibhav Dutt (Fields of View), Srinidhi Santosh (Fields of View), Yashwin Iddya (Fields of View)

COVID-19: Sustaining Momentum and Collaborations, Case study on the Relief Ecosystem in Karnataka


On March 25, 2020, India went into a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19. All economic and social activities, except essential services, were halted. While the lockdown adversely affected the society at large, it more specifically had profound impact on the vulnerable groups including daily wage earners, migrant workers, slum dwellers, homeless, people with disabilities, senior citizens, among others, across the country. Many suffered loss of livelihood, putting them into distress from hunger and loss of shelter. For instance, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, various studies suggested that more than 70 per cent of the contract workers in the private sector became unemployed. Workers, especially migrants, were running out of money to pay for their rent or to buy food. In response to the crisis, the Government at the centre and state level announced number of measures including fiscal and tax policy, economic stimulus, livelihood policy, healthcare, trade among others.

In this report, we document the relief efforts undertaken in Karnataka, by the various state and non-state agencies, including how they collaborated in their efforts. Data for the study was gathered from a sample of 232 non-state organisations who worked across the state in providing relief, based on interviews and focus group discussions, to understand the context and the landscape of relief efforts.

Results show that majority of the non-state organisations focused on providing relief to the vulnerable and mar- ginalised groups (85 percent of the organisations), and more than half of them (55 per cent) provided relief to the migrant communities. Further, around 64 percent of the organisations served local communities and 68 percent served informal workers. In terms of categories, it was observed that relief provided majorly included cooked food, dry rations, medicines, and economic relief. Further, analysis of the information and material flows revealed that relief operations adopted different approaches based on vulnerabilities stemming from material or psychological distress.

The cascading effect of COVID-19 on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicated the long-term impacts of the pandemic. In response, the report substantiates targeted strategies for inclusive development to fos- ter achieving the SDGs. The relief efforts demonstrated how decentralised networks for information exchange and dissemination proved to be resilient and provided greater utility for relief workers. The distributed nature of resource flow in relief operations suggested that the robustness of distributed system offers immense potential to develop as a model for collaboration for future relief operations.

Collaboration between the state and the non-state organisations, in the form of distributed hub-and-spoke model emerged as the optimal model for providing relief. The adoption of Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs), co-cre- ated by the state and non-state organisations can help make the information and material flows more efficient. Further, a non-intrusive feedback mechanism with multiple command centres and central coordination would enable the model to be more adaptive and responsive to the changing needs on the ground. In order to strengthen such decentralised networks, empowering local governments with adequate financial resources, decision-making powers and creating pathways for citizens to participate in governance systems, would be prudent.