Yuva - India

A look into worst hit Small Businesses and Workers during COVID-19

Lockdowns have been a crucial method to contain the spread of the Wuhan virus in the country, both during the first and the second waves. While amidst the first wave, India had witnessed a nationwide lockdown; different States are using different lockdown strategies in the second wave. But one thing about lockdowns is clear: they are not the same for everyone.

The Chinese virus has turned our lives upside down and the associated lockdowns are equally taking a toll on our mental health. What we find distressing is living inside four-walled rooms, unable to travel or meet our near and dear ones. But we have ways of entertainment through which we can keep ourselves occupied; Netflix and chill is the new mantra to avoid mental stress. We can read, listen to our favourite music, watch movies or sleep all day long. But what we find troublesome can be what somebody else is craving for in these turbulent times. Yes, the saddest part about the lockdown is that it is not the same for every section of society; some are in predicaments which we can never even think of being stuck in.

For the well-off sections of society, Netflix and chill have become a struggle, but to some, survival in itself has become a struggle they aren’t able to cope up with. In the worst-hit section, the small business owners and other workers know what the real difficulties of the lockdowns are. They have no work, no money, and no substitutes for earning their daily bread. Each day comes as a new challenge hoping to be able to earn the requisite amounts of money to feed their children, clothe their families and pay the rent. According to a survey conducted by the data firm Dun and Bradstreet, almost 82% of the small businesses of the country have been adversely affected during the periods of lockdown.

As per another survey conducted by FICCI, it was found out that ‘business sentiment’ in the country has also been deeply impacted after the devastating second wave. When compared with the previous survey, the optimism levels regarding being involved in businesses have reduced drastically. According to the survey, most of the participants cited weak demand conditions and the increasing rates of raw materials as bothering factors when being reluctant about being involved in businesses.

To gauge the sentiments of people who are involved in such small businesses and other such services, GoaChronicle got in touch with individuals who had their own stories to narrate to us. We spoke to Ashok Sain, who is from Jaipur, Rajasthan, and works as a driver. Ashok, talking about his predicament, said, “Earlier, I had a job but I was removed due to the economic crisis of COVID times. And then, I started working as a driver. But I have no work to do since the last two months in this lockdown period. I am simply sitting at home. Now, the unlock procedure has begun, I hope that I find work to drive. Once my work as a driver was affected due to the lockdown, I had resorted to daily wage labour and worked with some ragmen too.”

“This is how I have survived and when ill, I used to be at home. I am asthmatic and that is why I cannot even get indulged into much laborious work. I did whatever I was able to and in case of nothing was available, I had to sit idle. If the lockdown fully opens up and I get proper work, I will need at least 2-3 months for things to start improvising”, he added.

Another person from Jaipur, Suresh Karmakar, who runs a food stall said, “My work has stopped since around 16 April since the lockdown was imposed. Currently, I have no work and am sitting idle at home. Where do I find work when the market has been closed down? Now as the lockdown is being opened up in phases and we are allowed to keep our shops or stalls open till 4 PM, things are slightly better. But I think we need time till at least 7-8 PM for a better earning. Nobody ventures out in the afternoon because of the scorching heat. And even after the lockdown gets fully lifted, things will take time to get back to normal. It will take at least 6 months for my stall to attract customers like earlier times.”

Suresh continued, “During the lockdown last year, I could not sell food for almost three months. Even after it opened up and certain limitations continued to be in place, I was able to sell only 50% of foodstuff as compared to earlier times. What do I do? There’s no way out. Getting orders for marriages is not possible too. I just hope that we get at least 2 more hours to work at shops and stalls for sales to increase. We have no work and on top of that, have to compulsorily pay house rent and children’s school fees. There’s no relaxation. If we don’t pay the fees, the school will hand over a TC to us. I can’t let that happen, my children love studying at their school. Survival now depends on debts. I just hope that the lockdown gets lifted soon.”

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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