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

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Pandemic Precarity

Life, Livelihood, and Death in the Time of the Pandemic

This paper focuses on the social experiences of migrant informal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It argues how institutions in the realms of the state, market, and civil society interacted and created conditions of precarity unique to the pandemic. How dominant frameworks that explain the praxis of entitlements fail to capture such infringement arising from the overlaps and intersections between the state, market, and civil society are highlighted in this paper. 


The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Hurmuz Yuman, Manisha Kumari, Mohammad Alfauz, Sadia Zafar, Syayamsidha Sahu, and Vedant Kaul in helping them with conducting and transcribing the interviews. Sadia Zafar and Mohammad Irfan assisted the authors in data analysis. The authors would also like to thank the members of the Jharkhand state administrative machinery and volunteers who wished to remain anonymous.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the existing social fault lines of society. The health emergency and temporary moratorium on the economic activities not only created unprecedented desolation, but the pre-existing structural inequities enfeebled economic resilience and exacer­bated socio-economic disadvantage. The latter can be best des­cribed by the term “pandemic precarity.” We employ the term “pandemic precarity” to describe the adverse social experiences of the precariat of two seemingly different yet interrelated moments. The first moment is the march of the precariat from cities to native villages in the initial days of the pandemic; the second moment is the experience of the non-availability of medical aid, death of kith and kin followed by the struggle to cremate/bury and perform the last rituals of their family members. These two moments are spread in time and space but bridge the rural and urban and provide us with a comprehensive view of the extreme precarity experienced during the pandemic.

The Conceptual Framework

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Updated On : 31st Jan, 2022
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