With cases falling rapidly in Mumbai Dharavi, thousands of small and big businesses located in the area are trying hard to restart economic activities.
On Wednesday, Dharavi reported just three cases — an indication that the situation Asia’s biggest slum is slowly coming under control. It may be noted that since the past three months, economic activities came to a grinding halt and have not reopened.
Since Dharavi is one of the most congested areas in Mumbai, officials were worried about the rise in coronavirus cases in the area. However, the situation has drastically improved since the first few cases were reported.
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A declining trend in coronavirus cases has been observed in Dharavi from the first week of June — a commendable feat, especially when cases rose at a much sharper rate in most other congested cities in the country.
Local businesses under pressure
But Dharavi still faces a major problem of restarting economic activities. Since things are not going to be the same as earlier — with social distancing and other norms — businesses will need to readapt. Some businesses owners also said that lack of demand has further affected their work.
Mohammad Qamrul Hoda, who runs a raincoat making factory in Dharavi, has been the business for the last 20 years. But this year his business has suffered due to the pandemic. Now, he has started making PPE kits for hospitals, private officers and more. Even then, his business is far from steady.
He said, “Earlier every day we would make over 1,000 raincoats. Now, schools are also not functioning, we are not getting those orders. After lockdown and fear of coronavirus in Dharavi, most of the labours left. Few are left and I am managing.”
“We are providing food for the workers as well. Somehow we have to start the business, how long we will stay inside home? Workers are yet to come back. Most of them are not coming back as of now.”
Textiles, leather and pottery are some key businesses which operate in Dharavi. But the shortage of workers and lack of demand has business owners from Dharavi worried.
Nafees Khan, who operates an embroidery unit in Prem Nagar, Dharavi, is concerned about the shortage of workers. He is also worried about rent and electricity bill, which rounds up to Rs 58,000. With no work, his dues have been piling up.
Khan said, “We have started work, hopefully, workers start coming. The business is almost over, however, now we are getting some orders.”
There are many other business owners like Khan who are facing a similar predicament. In fact, some migrant workers who stayed back in Dharavi also admit that the present situation is difficult.
Migrant worker Salauddin Khan is happy that he is getting work in the city and making some money. But he is concerned as his employer is struggling to run the business.
“Things are not good at the moment,” he said.
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