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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

‘Employees are depressed… We are using Zoom for counselling’

Recently, an entrepreneur in Kerala’s light-and-sound sector ended his life, taking the total suicides in the business since March 2020 to 8. With restrictions on social events still in place, the 50,000 owners, techni-cians linked to the sector are struggling to stay afloat.

Written by Vishnu Varma |
September 12, 2021 3:49:05 am
‘Debts are piling up... Govt must help us,’ says Abdul Raheem. (Express photo)

Abdul Raheem Kuzhippuram, state president, Light & Sound Welfare Association, Kerala.

How has business been affected in the past year?

After the first lockdown, we hoped that everything would return to normal. We got some work during local body polls in December and Assembly polls in March this year. But since the second wave, our hopes are dashed, it’s a big crisis.

How have employees been affected?

Only 20 people are allowed at gatherings now and so there is very little demand for light and sound work. Our employees are struggling. Allied workers like stage personnel and artistes have also been affected.

How are you managing equipment costs, rent?

All of us have taken loans. Equipment is expensive and tends to malfunction when not used regularly. Sound equipment includes boxes, amplifiers, generators, and announcement sets, which cost about Rs 1.75 lakh. Some also invested in new lighting systems to attract new customers. Shop rents are piling up and adding to pressure.

How have the suicides affected the sector?

A lot of people in the sector are grappling with mental health issues. They are depressed. Inflation is high, the cost of running households is increasing, there are accumulating debts… All this has led to suicides. We are holding counselling sessions on Zoom. During festivals, the association pooled funds to distribute food kits. But such measures can’t replace jobs.

What are your demands from the government?

The government should urge banks to provide us interest-free loans and increase cap on gatherings to 100. They must give financial aid to families of the dead.

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