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Saturday, May 08, 2021

‘Already suffered a lot’: Workers in Bengaluru’s unorganised sector fear another lockdown

Many street vendors said their business is down since March and if the government brings more curbs, it would only add to their miseries.

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP | Bengaluru |
Updated: April 20, 2021 8:24:16 am
Nagaraju, a street vendor in north Bengaluru. (Express photo by Darshan Devaiah BP)

Even as the Karnataka government mulls over imposing a curfew in the state in the wake of rising coronavirus cases, workers in the unorganised sectors in capital Bengaluru are concerned over the implications of such restrictions on their livelihood based on their experience from last year’s lockdown.

The Peenya industrial area in north Bengaluru, which is the biggest industrial area in Southeast Asia and houses many small-scale industries, will be affected the most if the government brings more restrictions, says Myladri Reddy, former president and member of Peenya Industries Association.

“The majority of workers in Peenya Industrial area are in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) located and have already suffered a lot last year due to lockdown and restrictions. Most people lost jobs and their families have suffered. This time, the government has to be careful while bringing any such decision as it may affect the MSME workers here,” she told indianexpress.com.

“The MSME factories located in Peenya are very small. Only 25-30 people work in one firm with all kinds of precautions taken. Most of the workers will maintain social distancing since they work with machines and the spread of Covid-19 is also less when they work following all protocols,” she added.

The garment industry, which saw many workers losing their job during last year’s Covid lockdown, is already facing low demand. Prathiba, president of the Karnataka Garment and Textile Workers Union, said, “Lockdown is not a solution, it will only make the situation of the garment workers worse which we have seen last year. According to a study, around 10,000 garment workers in Karnataka had lost their jobs last year due to lockdown.”

She claimed that around 80 per cent of workers in garment factories are women and they would face a lot of trouble if the government announces lockdown.

The concern is not only limited to industrial workers. Many street vendors said their business is down since March and if the government brings more curbs, it would only add to their miseries.

“After Covid cases increased, customers stopped buying vegetables or fruits from us. Now we are hearing they (customers) are ordering online where they will get vegetables at their doorstep. Those would not be of good quality and as fresh as our products. But what can we do as we can’t go and deliver the products to their house,” said Nagaraju, a 70-year-old street vendor who sells fruits and vegetables in Dasarahalli area in north Bengaluru.

Another street vendor Prasanth said, “The business picked up in December 2020 to February 2021 and after that we are back to the last year memories of the worst life we had to live due to Covid-19 lockdown.”

“After Covid cases decreased last year, my earnings increased to Rs 500 but now they have dropped to Rs 200. Though it was Sunday yesterday, I made only Rs 150,” he added.

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