Pandemic affects Schuster’s livelihood beyond repair

Murugesh (45), who runs a shoemaker’s shop on High Road in Chittoor, is eagerly waiting for his customers. He somehow ran his family on a low income of £ 200 a day prior to the virus outbreak. He had a terrifying time accomplishing both of his goals during the lockdown imposed during the first wave last year.

“After the curbs relaxed, my daily income was reduced to half of my previous income. And now I’m making 40 pounds a day at best. People stay inside and the restricted business hours due to the partial curfew almost brought my business to a standstill. I have no idea how to run my family, ”says Murugesh.

The second wave of the pandemic hit not only life but the quality of life, and the shoemakers in the district, who usually do their shift sales from the sidewalks, are no exception.

Partial curfew

Since the streets become deserted from midday, the shoemakers lose their business hours, as their daily choir is only busy after 10 a.m. Her regulars are school children getting their bags and shoes repaired and middle class families, mostly villagers, who visit towns for some work.

An estimated 500 families are dependent on this profession in the Chittoor district and most of them live in Tirupati, Srikalahasti, Chittoor, Madanapalle and Mandal Headquarters. Before the pandemic, shoemakers at pilgrimage centers like Tirupati and Srikalahasti were making at least £ 600 a day. With the collapse of business, their numbers have dropped from 80,000 a day to just 2,000 in Tirupati.

To increase their income, the shoemakers also mend umbrellas and school bags made from shoes.

“All educational institutions are closed and business hours have been shortened. Now everyone wants to return home after finishing their jobs before curfew begins. Everyone prefers to buy a new pair of shoes rather than having the older ones repaired. We have no business, but we have to lead our families. We have no idea, ”says Palani (65), a shoemaker at the bus station in Puttur.

Depending on the PDS ration

Some cobblers say they are totally dependent on the government supplied ration. “Women in our homes somehow borrow food grains or a small amount of cash from the neighborhood. This is how we survive. Apart from mending shoes, I don’t know any other profession, ”complains Govindaiah (60), another shoemaker from Tirupati.

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