Mohammad Shahid, along with his younger brother, runs a small clothing unit in Dharavi, Mumbai. His business came to a standstill between the pandemic and the lockdown. Tears welled up in Mohammad Shahid’s eyes while telling his story. He makes pants and shirts in his unit. At one time 35 people used to work with him. There was a savings of about 1.5 lakh rupees every month. But first demonetisation, then GST and now the pandemic ruined everything. He is now burdened with debt and now only two people are going to work in the unit, one of whom is his father.
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Khalid, brother of textile businessman Shahid said, ‘We used to save 1.5 lakh rupees a month. Now such a time has come that now you have to pay so much. Nothing is left. In the lockdown, we have given month-to-month expenses to the artisans, because it was not clear how many days the lockdown would take. His textile unit is now on the verge of closure. Khalid says that he will have to find a job soon.
Most of the business of Dharavi, which has been a center of Mumbai’s economic activities, is in trouble. Earlier there was a business of one billion dollars. According to the Garment Association here, after two lockdowns, now only a few units are operational.
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Kalim Ansari, general secretary of the Dharavi Market Association, says that there were 600 to 700 factories in the entire Dharavi, out of which about 65 percent of the factories have been closed twice after the lockdown. If the lockdown is imposed due to the third wave that is being talked about, then 35 percent of the units which are operational will also be closed. Due to which the situation here can get worse.
Wasim Ansari used to make jeans and track pants in his unit in Dharavi, which took him seven years to build this factory. But a single year of the pandemic forced it to be closed. Until recently, 17 artisans used to work with him. But due to the lockdown, Wasim is looking for work for himself.
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Wasim says, ‘The debt is too much. Now we are trying to start the factory. But in the end we will have to work for the expenses.
Not only in Dharavi but in the whole country, small and medium industries are in trouble. According to a survey by LocalCircles last month, 59 per cent of the start-up, small-scale industries are either on the verge of closure or their business has decreased significantly or they are in the midst of selling them. On the issue of supporting small businessmen, the Maharashtra government says that they did what they could and we should examine the central government’s loan scheme for small industries during the pandemic.
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Nawab Malik, a minister in the Maharashtra government, said, ‘The central government has announced a loan of four lakh crores. According to the budget of the state government, we made a plan for all those people as much as possible.
But Wasim, Shahid and Khalid who have already taken loans., which are finding it difficult to repay. Taking another loan is not the solution to the problem for them.