Summary of Responses
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Livelihood is not just a means of earning a living and generating an income but a pattern of asset ownership, availability of required skills and knowledge to deploy those assets into a productive process, and a favorable market mechanism. It is the livelihoods, after human life that disaster prone communities strive most to protect against hazards. Macroeconomic indicators are used for assessing disaster induced damage but disruption to micro, subsistence and livelihood economies is not accounted for with the same level of detail. The query seeking advice for estimating livelihood & income losses due to flooding received a number of insightful responses on the issue.
Members highlighted the importance of understanding the difference between flood damage and flood loss. While flood damage is related to the physical damage of public and private assets, flood loss also refers to secondary or tertiary losses as well as intangible losses such as loss of human lives. For realistic estimates, it is important to consider flood damages and well as flood losses into account. Therefore importance of assessing potential flood losses becomes evident when policy makers and planners try to strike an optimal balance between the development needs of a particular area and the levels of flood risk community is ready to accept.
Discussants pointed out that loss of livelihood due to floods is an omni dimensional phenomenon in the context of flood ridden states of India. They stressed on the need to see this as a Rights & Entitlement issue of the flood affected community. Increasing commitment towards proactive disaster management, members felt has opened the vistas for preparedness towards the realistic and democratic assessment of the eligibility for the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) and National Calamity Contingency fund (NCCF) aid. The primary challenge is to strike a balance between Covert & Overt Losses at different levels – for individuals, households, community as well as widespread economy of Village, Panchayat, Blocks, Districts, States and the Country.
Livelihood assessment in a situation of Disaster can be dealt in the following Framework of Perception:-
Step 1: Validate overt livelihood loss through initial and rapid assessment at community level by collecting primary and secondary data. This will establish the Volume of NCCF & CRF application in Relief, Response, Early Recovery, Recovery and Rehabilitation.
Step 2: Verify Covert Livelihood and validate by indepth and detailed assessment at community, household as well as individual level. The output of Step 1 will decide whether to go for this step and in what order. This process will target individuals who have lost their livelihoods and will represent the losses at Primary system of Livelihood.
Discussing options to help in assessing potential livelihood or income loss quickly and effectively, members first pointed out that disasters have both direct and indirect effects. Alteration of income flows in terms of reduced income or livelihood loss is a noteworthy direct effect, whereas indirect losses are due to disruption in regular incomes which are less evident when the assessment is carried out. Therefore, members recommended assessing direct and indirect effects in monetary terms and the damage to sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry etc.
Further, respondents highlighted that in many states ‘Lekhpal’ is the final word on loss assessment and it is decided based on the revenue grid of the village. Villagers’ names have to exist in the records first as an individual family unit or else their extended family may get selected as the sole beneficiary and the blanket cash / kind package is extended to the entire household. This system of distribution, members felt rejects an individual’s existential identity and the absolute affirmation of the family as the lowest form of recipient. Further, one needs to be in the village’/ domicile zone to avail the benefits unless the civil administration comes up with a decree that allows non domiciles to avail relief. In the case of the urban areas, situation of homeless and migrants is most complex as they travel long distances in search of employment and bear the brunt of disasters in places where their existence is questioned.
In order to address this members recommended that civil administration could take the number of rainy days and the quantum of rains attained and set a threshold for the populace – beyond which relief aid should be free for all.
Discussing the scope of engaging with national schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), members suggested that since government supported employment schemes do not operate during inclement weather periods (historically) and hence would not be able to vouch for a marginal worker’s claims under duress, cards issued by the Government be it the ration card or the MNREGS card could be used as the starting point to assess the losses. These two scaling tools would enable filtering of true claimants and serve the purpose of providing assistance to the affected in monetary terms. This, they felt can be used in case of sudden onset disasters like floods and minor earthquakes, but for slow onset events like droughts they recommended opting for cash for work activities.
Listing the items and norms of assistance given in CRF and NCCF for the period 2005-10, members highlighted the item on Employment Generation meant to meet additional requirements after taking into account funds available under various plans/schemes with element of employment generation e.g. MGNREGS, SGRY. Members recommended calculating ‘Man-days lost’ due to Monsoon in different sectors and its cost for daily workers, by mutual cooperation of District Disaster Management Authority and Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) under Chief Development Officer of the District as they deal with various plans/schemes with elements of employment.
Discussing the livelihood linkage members observed that various livelihood activities are interlinked. Impact on any of these is likely to cause disruptions in other related activities as well. Disaster related damages in agriculture can have equally adverse implications for other sectors too. Therefore they stressed on assessing cross-cutting implications. Different occupations experience varying extents of vulnerability to different disasters.
Pointing to the information asymmetry as one of the major reasons for wrong estimation of losses-especially livelihoods, during floods, cyclone and even manmade disasters, members recommended having joint assessment of livelihood losses in the flood prone areas by involving the local community.
Apart from these members suggested the following for quickly and effectively assessing potential livelihood and income loss:
· Involving representatives of PRIs and Gram Sabha for the assessment exercise
· Making village level service providers a part of the assessment to speed up the process and support through their respective areas of work. E.g A Panchayat Rojgar Sewak can be instrumental in assessing the human days loss in the villages and an Aaganwadi Sewika/ASHA could help in assessing the health related aspect for women, adolescents and children
· Ensuring proper coordination between loss assessment and relief distribution
· Providing job cards, ration Cards, health cards for pregnant women
· Using beneficiaries’ list of Aaganwadi Centre and other social security schemes
· Providing special focus to families of elderly people, women and children where the men have migrated in search of work.
· Assessing each and every source of income and livelihood generation and also the skills that generate livelihood from even a negligible asset
· Assessing effect of disaster on market mechanism as when low commodity prices coincide with natural hazards, rural livelihoods come under high stress.
Providing inputs on kinds of losses that can be calculated and some tools which can be adapted, participants shared the following:
· Rapid livelihood assessment
· Loss of wage days
· Loss of agriculture implements
· Loss of livestock
· Loss of land registration documents
· Loss of household utensils
· Loss of damage to the shelter
· Loss of stock of seeds and grain
· Land degradation, soil erosion and replenishment of soil be estimated separately
Interestingly, participants also touched upon estimating macroeconomic effects of disasters, those that have a bearing on growth of agricultural production. They opined that an estimate of the livelihood and family income is relevant for this as these are also come under macroeconomic variables. Therefore they suggested preparing background information on how the agricultural sector was expected to evolve before the disaster based on recent performance or in accordance with goals established in this sectoral plan that officials adopted before the disaster.
Respondents brought to light the existing gaps in crop loss assessment mechanisms under CRF and NCCF. They highlighted that the loss assessment is only done for the crop no other factors are taken into consideration in detail like fodder, fruit plants, livestock death, land degradation, etc. They shared government guidelines and mandates which are quite comprehensive for the assessment of loss, including crop loss. Refer to the Recommended Resources section for more details
Finally members opined that during disasters villagers do benefit from CRF / NCCF but effective implementation is always challenging. They therefore recommended introducing social audit component for ensuring transparency and accountability in CRF / NCCF.