In early May, Shalika Madan, who worked in a law firm in the Indian capital, Delhi, received a call from her office and was told that she was being laid off.
Ms Madan, a 38-year-old single mother of a son with special needs, had spent more than two years with the firm. A grinding lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus had shut down life and business in the capital.
“I begged and begged them to retain me even without a salary. My boss said he had run out of business and money. He knew my situation, and said he was helpless,” Ms Madan, who has more than a decade of work experience in office administration, told me.
She joined millions of Indians whose jobs have disappeared because of the pandemic. A month after the lockdown, 121 million Indians were out of work, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), an independent think tank.
Since then, the Indian economy has clawed back tens of millions of jobs, mainly in the informal and rural economies. (The bulk of India’s 400-odd million jobs are in the informal economy.)
The CMIE, which conducts one of the world’s largest continuous surveys to track household incomes, expenses and assets, reckons that 70 million such jobs lost at the peak of the lockdown in April have returned.
This is mainly because of the resumption of some economic activity and a bumper harvest that has not only helped absorb a large workforce but also created extra jobs on farms. The nationwide rural jobs guarantee programme has also helped.
That’s where the good news appears to end.
Some 19 million salaried, formal economy jobs have been lost after the lockdown, estimates the CMIE. A separate report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that more than 4 million Indians below the age of 30 have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Those aged 15-24 are the hardest hit.