The COVID-19 pandemic has afflicted almost every section of the society, crippling the livelihood of thousands of families.
Count among those affected, the families from Aruldosspuram and Thathaneri in Madurai, who for generations have been weaving bamboo baskets, plates, broomsticks, mats and window blinds.
The disruption in procuring fresh bamboo from Munnar in Kerala for making products and the lower takers for their finished products amidst the lockdown, has deprived the livelihood of these families, leaving them with no source of income.
M. Latha, says that she and her husband have to toil for around 12 hours each day to earn an income of ₹400, which is only sufficient to make their ends meet. “Usually there is a good demand for our products during summer and wedding seasons. We save the money from this period to see through lean seasons in the rest of the year,” she says.
R. Selvam, 61, says that even traders from wholesale markets who regularly buy products from him, are currently unwilling to procure baskets from him. “I made these baskets, a month back, when we were able to procure bamboo from Kerala. I purchased a bundle of bamboo for around ₹1,000 to make products, which would have fetched an income of ₹800, if the products are sold,” he says.
But with no income, he and his wife are currently feeding themselves with the rice supplied through public distribution shops for sustenance. “But, it would be difficult to sustain ourselves for a longer period,” he says.
These families generally borrow from money-lenders for a higher interest rate, says S. Mohan, whose family has been involved in the business for the last four generations. We are also scared that the epidemic would force the money-lenders would to further increase the interest rate. With increasing amount of debt, we are clueless on how to handle the situation,” he says.
B. Palaniammal, former councillor of Aruldosspuram, says that the elderly who live alone and are involved in the business, are the worst affected.
Mr. Selvam suggests that the government can facilitate the sales of their products after the end of the lockdown period. He also adds that the government can take steps to ensure seamless supply of bamboo from Kerala to Madurai.