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The three-month-long lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic has hit the barbers across Maharashtra, taking a severe toll on their livelihoods.
Given the risk involved in their business amid the rising number of infections in the country, they have demanded financial relief packages from the Uddhav Thackeray government.
According to reports, the barbers held a meeting to discuss the issue at a civic garden In Pune's Karsarwadi on Saturday, May 6.
They have threatened to take 'Jal Samadhi' if the state government fails to step up and provide necessary financial assistance to tide over the crisis.
Reportedly, the barbers protested in various cities in the state and have also asked for reopening of the salons.
Kalyan Dale, President of Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal which is an organisation of nearly nine lakh salon operators in the state cited the plight of people into such business.
"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," he said, reported The Indian Express.
The burden of bearing fixed costs with zero revenue has added to their woes. Dale said that the organisation is seeking cash assistance of Rs 5,000 for every barber. Additionally, they have also demanded waiver of interest on loans, waiver of rent for shops as part of the relief package.
He also said that owing to the nature of their business, an entire family is dependent on one person's income and if the government does not announce the opening of salons and barbershops by June 8, they would be forced to protest.
The barbers have planned on the precautions to be taken while opening up the shops and have also decided to hike the price all their services, with the minimum charge starting at Rs 100.
The Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal has finalised dos and don'ts for barbers to ensure maximum protection amid the coronavirus scare.
Use of masks, sanitisers, disposable blades, the disposable napkin will be mandatory. Also, a special machine will be used to keep scissors, which will have to be sanitised before use.
The organisation has also stated that salons will have to be disinfected and cleaned after every two hours. Most importantly, combs will also be sanitised frequently.
"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," said Ganesh Walunjkar, working president of the Mahamandal.
However, the barbers are opposing the idea of making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) compulsory.
"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," said the organisation's president.
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