Social protection in Indian cities: lessons from the pandemic
Relief measures to mitigate the socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 and its attendant lockdowns in India saw innovation to remain effective in difficult circumstances. State and non-state actors used and expanded current delivery systems for social protection (food, healthcare, education, income support) and innovated with ‘temporary’ measures that created new categories of recipients, forms of entitlement and delivery mechanisms. A new set of actors took on critical roles. We learnt important lessons from the work of non-state actors (trade unions, worker organisations, civil society groups, individual networks) during the pandemic by drawing on assessments of relief work in 2020–21 in two large Indian cities: New Delhi and Jaipur. This learning can inform social protection design and delivery in megacities in the global South, where structural inequality and high rates of informal employment and worker mobility complicate social protection delivery.