12 to 15 hours of load shedding dashes the hope of farmers, business establishments, traders, and small and medium industries

Deepavali – the festival of light – brings along with it a sense of joy that is shared by one and all. What makes the ‘D’ day even more unique is that the merriment, which precedes the carnival, starts resonating in the lives of people much ahead of the festival.

However, this time around, the celebrations seem to be subdued and muted across society in general and with trading community in particular; prolonged load shedding seems to have snuffed the light out of the festivities. More than the steep power tariff revision, hike in the prices of petrol, diesel, bus fare and milk, it is the more than 15-hour everyday power shutdown that has hit the commercial and business entities hard.

“It’s going to be a ‘dark Deepavali’ for us this year,” reckon traders, both big and small across district. The purchasing power of people has taken a beating thanks to the poor harvest , courtesy – Cauvery water row, wretched condition of small and medium industries, and business establishments due to power crisis. Wearing new clothes has been a quintessential feature of the festival. Usually, in the past, tailors used to work overtime at least a month in advance for Deepavali, but tailoring marts now have recorded just a third of their usual order .

Almost all tailoring shops now use automatic sewing machines. With acute shortage of power , the tailoring units could function only for a few hours a day. The big tailoring marts have opted for generators, but find it too expensive due to the recent steep hike in diesel price. “The power cut has made our lives miserable. Even our long-time customers have given us a short shrift,” says S.Dhanapal of Style King Tailoring Mart at Sundarnagar in the city.

Usually we used to recruit ‘seasonal’ or temporary workers to meet the demand during the season period. This year the small and medium tailoring units have no plans to recruit such workers, avers N.Asghar of Hero Tailoring Mart on the Madurai road.

About 1,500 to 2,000 workers employed in goldsmith workshops are now unemployed as they could not do anything without electricity. It is not only a loss to the workers, but also the proprietors.

They are sure that they will not be able to meet the Deepavali expenses with their meagre income.

‘We have no other alternative but to go to private money lenders for loans for celebrating the festival. Already many of my friends have borrowed money, ” says M.Vinodkumar employed in a smithy in the city.

The productivity of the district’s 20,000-odd micro-level industries, which employ hundreds of workers, has remained far below normal ever since power shutdown was clamped, says R.Arockia Samy, president, Tiruchi District Micro Entrepreneurs Association (TIMEA), which has planned to take up the issue with the authorities. A majority of the small scale entrepreneurs are struggling and are not in a position to provide wages to its workforce and repay bank loans, he says.

Industrial workers depend on bonus to meet the additional expenses during Deepavali . But the power shutdown has dampened their hopes, as the managements are struggling even to pay regular wages.

Construction workers too are facing the heat. The masons and helpers are hard hit as they get jobs only for three days a week. Power supply is needed for getting water from borewell for mixing. “We often find ourselves without job and could earn only less than half our usual weekly income. Our Deepavali this year would be bereft of fanfare,” says Azhagar and Devi, both construction workers of Manapparai.

For the 1.10 lakh shops and business establishments functioning in the district the months from October to January has usually been the peak business season with Deepavali, Christmas, and Pongal dotting the datelines. Though a majority of them use generators, it’s quite expensive .

The load shedding has crippled the trading fraternity, says Ve.Govindarajulu, State general secretary, Tamil Nadu Traders Federation.

The federation has proposed to meet authorities to urge them to consider providing uninterrupted power supply at least during Deepavali season.