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A country-wide lockdown may prevent the spread of coronavirus, but it surely comes with a price.
Such stringent measure would bring a "financial epidemic" on five crore families of hawkers and those who supply them with products, said an official of the National Hawkers' body.
In such an alarming state, the countrywide lockdown to deal with the coronavirus crisis, wreaked havoc on low wage earners especially the street-side vendors and hawkers, affecting their daily income and their families.
"There are four crore hawkers across the country and at least one crore families run tiny and small industrial units that feed these vendors. They don't know how to make both ends meet as their businesses have come to a complete halt," National Hawker Federation general secretary, Shaktiman Ghosh told PTI on Thursday.
The economy revolving around street vending is estimated at Rs 8,000 crore a day.
"Financial epidemic is knocking at the door. Business capital is like a child to hawkers and they protect it at any cost. But they are now surviving on this capital, they live hand to mouth," Ghosh said.
Emphasizing on the severity of the situation, he said that if the hawkers are left unsupported, it might lead them to anti-social activities in desperation to feed their families or resort to suicide.
He furthermore added that more people will die due to financial constraints than the coronavirus infection unless state governments and the Centre takes some steps quickly to keep them afloat for the next few months.
"The Centre must ensure Rs 50,000 under Mudra loan scheme to each hawker and Rs 5 lakh to the manufacturers," he said.
Ghosh also informed that they are still waiting for the West Bengal government to provide its 16 lakh hawker community with any direct financial assistance.
Another hawker in Kolkata said that even after the lockdown is lifted, it would be difficult for him to restart his business due to financial constraints. He explained how the hawkers, under the given restrictions, are totally dependent on state governments ration and aids given by hawkers' unions.
A total of 1,188 unions and 11 central trade unions in 28 states are affiliated to the National Hawker Federation. The Federation has demanded that the government must recognize street vending as an essential service.
Yet, amidst all of this chaos, the five crore families of the hawkers continue to suffer from almost no help given from the government's side.
According to the 'Hawkers and the urban informal sector: a study of street vending in seven cities' done by Sharit K. Bhowmik, a professor at TISS, for National Alliance of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), a street hawkers' daily income ranges between 50-100 rupees per day.
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