Around 4 p.m. on Saturday, the deserted first floor of Lucky Plaza on Ranganathan Street, is in sharp contrast to the bustling throng just outside. Soon, the din of generators replaces the whizz of electronic sewing machines as the one-hour routine power-cut begins.
At Five Star Tailors, K.Saravanan leaves for lunch. “I cut cloth material or have a meal during this hour,” he says. Others, who work in shops without generators, quite literally sit at their workstations waiting for the hour to pass.
For people like him, who rely on electricity for their livelihoods, the hike in electricity tariff, which is to come into effect in a few months, only means more pressure.
“A heavy load is required for running these tailoring machines and using a generator is too expensive for us,” says S.Kaliappan from Super Star Tailors.
“Apart from kerosene being very expensive, our eyes start to water because of the smoke, which affects our work,” he adds.
Given that Ranganathan Street is known for its tailors, they lose almost Rs.500 every day. This works out to a loss of two churidhar sets or almost three blouse pieces per tailor in an hour. M.Nisha, from Rasi Mahal Tailors, says she spends on 10 litres of kerosene every week. “We incur a substantial loss but we cannot raise the rates for customers. They just won't accept it,” she adds.
Several others in the city rely on a constant supply of electricity to complete a day's work. “Only if there is power can any work get done,” says S.Saravanan, who runs a recording studio in Kodambakkam. Using a generator in his compact studio will cause noise and stall recordings further, he says.
“Apart from the regular power cuts, the studio constantly experiences low voltage, putting on hold recording work,” he says, adding on several occasions work has been cancelled. Mr.Saravanan pays approximately Rs.10,000 every two months for electricity but is unsure how much his bill will be when the new tariffs come into force.
There are others too who depend on electricity excessively. K. Karthik, who runs a browsing centre in Vananthurai, says he will compensate for the hike by increasing the rates. “From the new year, I will increase browsing rates from Rs.15 per hour to Rs.25,” he says, adding that income from scanners and colour printers will also diminish if the power-cuts continue.
With the hike in electricity rates, customers may have to pay more for services such as grinding flour. “Now, we charge Rs.5 for a kilo of flour. This will be increased to Rs.7,” says D.Kottiswaran, owner of Sri Mahalakshmi Maavu Mill. “Right now, in one unit of electricity, we can grind up to seven kilos of flour,” he adds.
As they are already in competition with packaged food products, they fear the electricity tariff hikes may drive them out of business. “I have five machines to run and already pay almost Rs.6,000 per month for electricity,” says M.Kumar, owner of Sri Lakshmi Flour Mill. “I feel I may have to close down the mill soon,” he adds.