Mumbai: As Mumbai is gradually moving towards re-opening under 'Mission Begin Again', Dharavi is still facing a major problem in restarting economic
Dharavi, the 240-hectare urban sprawl in the heart of the financial capital, is home to 20,000-odd small business and small-scale manufacturers which stand paralysed as on today largely due to the economic slowdown following the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Since things are not going to be the same as earlier, with physical distancing and other norms, businesses will need to readapt. Some business owners and manufacturers have said that lack of demand and labourers migrating to their hometowns has further affected their work, making this lockdown a prolonged one for them than many others.
The famous leather market of Dharavi along the 90-feet road, which is normal hustling and bustling with people, has a deserted look these days as the bulk of workers/labourers who operate in its units have headed home in view of the uncertainty of getting livelihood during the lockdown.
Textiles, leather and pottery are some key businesses which operate in Dharavi. Dharavi’s leather market is one of the biggest contributors to the slum colony’s famed informal economy that supports thousands of families. The total estimated size of Dharavi’s economy – which, apart from leather, includes pottery, textile and waste recycling – is close to Rs 6,000 crore a year. But the shortage of workers and lack of demand have business owners from Dharavi worried. Many are fearing that this year they would not even earn half of their average annual turnover during the pre-covid19 period.
A leather goods wholesaler in Dharavi since 1988 and owner of Ganesh leather works Ganesh Doiphone said: "We are waiting for the monsoon to end, after that, we are planning to engage with the government to intervene and help us. Of the 30 workers I had, only five are currently working with me, remaining migrated to their home towns in UP, Bihar and West Bengal. They now want to come back, but it is not possible now. I live and work at my workshop, where there is no place for isolation. Hence it will be risky."
Doiphode's firm has an annual turnover of Rs. 1.5 to Rs 2 crore. He fears this year he will not be able to reach half of his annual target. "One of my embossing machines which I had imported from other state is yet to reach my workshop, it has reached Mumbai but is lying in transit for the last one month. It's getting difficult now, many of them into a leather business here in Dharavi are facing problems in paying their staff," added Doiphode.
According to Manohar Raibage, president of Leather Goods Manufacturing Association, the leather market has faced its worst hit since demonstration followed by implementation of GST. "There are 450 authorised leather goods shops in Dharavi. These shops have been earning Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 per day. Smaller shops earn Rs 20,000 to 25,000. The business is just shut and no revenue since March. Now, that the hotels and other businesses have started, even leather shops can reopen. However, there is low or no demand due to the pandemic. It's our fight of survival now," said Raibage.
Like other businesses, establishments, even leather market has been given an alternative to re-open but with riders, said Kiran Dighavkar Assistant Municipal Commissioner of G (North) ward which covers Dharavi. "Like other businesses we have allowed the leather market to reopen too, but with just 10 per cent staff. Only those in containment zones have to follow the lockdown measures. Things might take time to be like they were. The best part is we are getting a grip over the situation now," said Dighavkar.