Coronavirus outbreak: Shutdown of SoBo markets hits daily wagers hard

Updated: Mar 19, 2020, 07:57 IST | Diwakar Sharma, Faizan Khan | Mumbai

While some have hardly anything to do, others worried over how they would feed their families with such meagre earnings

Daily wage labourers at the Chira Bazaar are hardly getting any work as almost 50 per cent of the market has shut down. Pics/Atul Kamble
Daily wage labourers at the Chira Bazaar are hardly getting any work as almost 50 per cent of the market has shut down. Pics/Atul Kamble

With the Coronavirus slowly spreading its wings across the country, several businesses have gone for a toss. However, it seems that the daily wage labourers are the worst hit considering there has been limited movement of goods over the past one week.

mid-day visited some of the South Mumbai markets – Chira Bazaar, Kalbadevi and Dady Seth Agiary Lane – and found lanes to be almost deserted. Only a handful of people and a couple of tempos were seen offloading goods. Many handcart pullers were seen waiting for tempos to bring in goods for them to offload and transport.

Forty-year-old handcart puller, Muntu Seth, said, "The Chira Bazaar market has been absolutely dry since the Coronavirus outbreak. I hardly got any work in the past one week. Today I earned only R200 and spent R60 on tea and snacks. You tend to eat and drink more when you have no work. Earlier, I used to make at least R1,000 everyday and would save money to send it to my family in Malda, West Bengal. But this slowdown is costing me a lot."

Another worker, Sant Kumar Jaiswal, said, "I have been pulling a handcart in Chira Bazaar area since the last 30 years but I have never seen the market to be this deserted. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit us hard."

"Today I only earned R150. What will I save from this? My son is studying in an English medium school in Basti. I have to bear his educational expenses. Just to save a few penny I cook and sleep on a footpath near the market after work," added Jaiswal.

Paper trader, Mansukh Gala, who works at Dady Seth Agiary Lane, told mid-day that the market had slowed down by 50 per cent since the Coronavirus outbreak.

"Since the COVID 19 outbreak, everyone is scared to come in contact with others. The footfall at this market has reduced by 50 per cent as neither the customers nor businessmen come these days," said Gala, who has been running a retail as well as wholesale shop at the market.

"Even I am scared to know about the virus. My brother lives in Ghatkopar and he asked me if he could come and help me out. I don't want him to get infected while travelling in train. So, I asked him to stay home and avoid travelling in trains till the situation gets better. Since I stay in the market, it is easier for me to run the business," he added.

Construction labourer, Abdul Qasim has been worried about the government's decision to shut down several businesses. "I have been earning R700 every day. I have no savings. In case the construction firm where I work is forced to shut down, I will be left with no money to feed my family," said Qasim, who lives in Govandi with his wife and two children.

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