Amidst the lockdown which continued for almost three months induced by the coronavirus pandemic, barbers based in Maharashtra have been badly affected as the lockdown posed a huge threat to their business.
The state government has received requests from several barbers in Maharashtra to provide them with a financial package.
On Saturday, at a civic park in Kasarwadi, all the barbers arranged for a meeting where they discussed the issue and threatened to go for a jal samadhi if they are not issued any financial assistance under the Maha Vikas Agadhi government scheme.
Protests were held by many barbers across various cities in Maharashtra where they demanded immediate resumption of their services by opening the parlours and salons.
Indian Express quoted Kalyan Dale, President of Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal, an association of around nine lakh salon workers, in the state as saying, "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…."
Dale also mentioned that Rs 5,000 cash aid has been demanded by the Mahamandal to help every barber. They have also requested the removal of interests on loans as well as the elimination of their shop rents to be included in the financial package.
He also expressed his disappointment regarding the government's decision of allowing other businesses to function in the state except for shopping malls and salons. "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," Dale said.
Alongside the agitation and perturbation put forward by them, the barbers also proposed the two plans that they would like to be considered.
The first option would be to take proper safety and precautions while resuming the services, according to the norms set by the government, to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The second one would be to hike the charge of all salon services with the minimum rate starting at Rs 100.
Various dos and don'ts have been decided on by the Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal, and they have urged the barbers to strictly follow social distancing and maintain safety.
Samsher Shaikh, a Mahamandal member stated that it is mandatory for a salon service provider or a barber to apply sanitiser, blades and napkins that are disposable and a special machine to preserve scissors and combs and sanitise them frequently as well as before use. It is also mandatory for the barbers, or the salon operators, to wear facemasks and provide customers with a disposable mask if they are not wearing one...Every two hours, salons will have to be disinfected and cleaned," said Shaikh, as reported to Indian Express.
President of the Mahamandal Ganesh Walunjkar said, "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."
However, the barbers are against the idea of making 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 added.
The Mahamandal added that the transitions would affect the barbers badly and lead to a possible downfall to their business which will eventually hike their service charges by 100 per cent. Waljunkar states that customers are likely to pay double whenever the barbershops are allowed to operate again.
Dale said that it was not possible to avoid the hike in prices. "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 added.