HIT by the three-month lockdown and the high-risk nature of their business amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, barbers across Maharashtra have demanded a financial package from the state government.
At a meeting of barbers held at a civic garden in Kasarwadi on Saturday, the barbers threatened to opt for a jal samadhi if they didn’t get any financial assistance from the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Barbers also held protests in various cities in the state, demanding immediate reopening of salons. “The lockdown has hit barbers hard. Most of us live a hand-to-mouth existence. We couldn’t earn a single paisa during this period. On top of this, each one of us had to pay huge rent for our shops…,” said Kalyan Dale, president of Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal, an umbrella organisation of nearly nine lakh salon operators in the state.
Dale said the Mahamandal is seeking Rs 5,000 cash assistance for every barber, waiver of interest on loans and waiver of rent for their shops, as part of the financial package.
He said every other business activity, except shopping malls and salons, has been allowed to reopen in the state. “Malls are run by big business houses. Our business is run by individuals on whom the entire family is financially dependent. If the government does not open the salon business by June 8, we will be forced to protest,” said Dale.
Aside from the proposed agitation, the barbers also unveiled two plans – the first on taking proper precautions to prevent spread of Covid-19 infection and the second on hiking the price of all their services, with the minimum charge starting at Rs 100.
In a bid to adhere to social distancing norms and ensure safety, the Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal, has finalised dos and don’ts for barbers.
Samsher Shaikh, a member of the Mahamandal, said a salon operator or a barber will have to use sanitiser, disposable blades, disposable napkin, and a special machine to keep scissors, which will have to be sanitised before use. Masks will be compulsory for barbers and if a customer is not wearing a mask, he will have to be provided disposable masks. “…Every two hours, salons will have to be disinfected and cleaned,” said Shaikh. Combs will also have to be sanitised frequently.
“To avoid overcrowding, any salon which has four chairs should allow only two customers at a time. To prevent crowding, customers should take prior appointments,” said Ganesh Walunjkar, working president of the Mahamandal.
The barbers are, however, opposing the bid to make PPE kits mandatory. “PPE kits should be made available to the barbers by local urban civic bodies. Otherwise it will be difficult for them to operate as PPE kits are costly and have to be disposed of after one use,” Dale said.
The Mahamandal said the changes will cost barbers heavily, and this will lead to the price of their services rising by 100 per cent. Customers will have to pay much more whenever the barber shops are allowed to reopen, said Walunjkar.
Dale said the price hike was unavoidable. “Making arrangements for social distancing will cost each barber a huge sum. They are already in a bad state as there has been no income for months. Customers will have to understand our plight,” he said.
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