Amid India's battle against the worst virus epidemic in the world, its key political parties are offering an unprecedented monthly payment to all homemaker in order to win state elections.
If passed, the stipends will be among the first in the world to discuss women's unpaid labour, which economists say accounts for up to 39% of global GDP and is often overlooked in official statistics, reports Bloomberg.
This would also be a big cultural shift in a country where women are overburdened with domestic responsibilities and have one of the lowest labour participation rates on the planet, a situation worsened by Covid-19.
The epidemic in India, which is now engulfing hospitals in major cities, has disproportionately affected women.
After a nationwide lockdown last year, several people have registered a major or complete loss of income, and housework has increased dramatically as unemployed male migrants returned home.
Three of the five states that will count ballots on Sunday are likely to use the stipends. Down south in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, both the ruling coalition and opposition candidates have pledged monthly income support to housewives.
This includes the country's largest opposition Congress party, which has promised 2,000 rupees ($27) per month for homemakers in Assam and Kerala, respectively.
Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal and one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most vocal political opponents, has promised monthly income support of up to 1,000 rupees to female heads of 16 million households.
After the final round of voting is completed on Thursday evening, the exit poll results will be shown on television.
Banerjee's Trinamool Congress presented itself as a democratic alternative to Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party after coming to power in 2011 by introducing a series of gender equality and social justice initiatives. While the BJP does not have a similar policy for housewives, it does have a number of programs aimed at women, including free education for girls and quotas for government employment.
"On sticky social and cultural norms, the needle is slow to travel, but small positive steps can engender more change," said Nalini Gulati, an economist at the London-based think tank International Growth Centre and managing editor of the research platform "Ideas for India."
"Monthly income support by state governments -- if implemented effectively -- will put money in the hands of those who have been cash-strapped during the pandemic and address their unmet consumption needs," she said. "This can also contribute towards creating demand in the economy as a whole."
Uplifting women is vital for Asia's third largest economy as Modi pushes to attract foreign investment and boost India's economic heft globally. India's gross domestic product could grow by 27% if women's participation in the economy was raised to the same level as that of men, according to research by the International Monetary Fund.
Close to three-quarters of women are excluded from the workforce, leaving India ranked 145th out of 153 countries, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report. The low participation is because about 60% of women take on full time domestic duties like cleaning, cooking, fetching water and giving care to children and in-laws, India's Economic Survey reported in January.
Although women spend nearly six hours a day on unpaid domestic work compared with less than an hour for men, their contribution at home isn't recorded in India's national income.
The pledges to pay women for housework comes amid global debate about whether societies should do more to recognize and compensate women for the work they perform at home.
While more steps are required -- including redistributing unpaid work in the household and better infrastructure to reduce the time it takes women to procure water and cooking fuel -- the payments are a good start, according to Prabha Kotiswaran, a professor at the King's college London who has written articles on the economic worth of homemakers.
"It is a globally unprecedented move," she said, "which is necessary in a country where there is zero recognition of women's unpaid work."