Coronavirus crisis affects Kerala’s disabled umbrella makers who are struggling to make ends meet
Due to the lockdown, many businesses from across India has been affected. Disabled umbrella makers from Kerala are struggling to make ends meet during this time. May is the month when people purchase umbrellas in the state with monsoons arriving and schools and offices reopening. This year, umbrella business has been badly affected.
The ongoing lockdown has had a huge impact on big and small businesses across India. Now, many people are struggling to make ends meet. People from the disabled community are looking out for various means to sustain their livelihood. In Kerala, there are hundreds of people with various kinds of disabilities working inside their homes and making hand made products. Umbrellas are one amongst the products that are sold fast across the state. But this year, due to lockdown, disabled umbrella makers in Kerala are left with no money or food to survive.
The many challenges faced by disabled umbrella makers
June is the month when monsoons arrive in Kerala and rains are full-fledged across the state. Schools were also to re-open in a week’s time. May is the season for shopping umbrellas. Students and working people are the ones who buy umbrellas the most. But due to the lockdown, schools are not reopening. Most offices still remain shut and most of the people are going to work from their homes for another few weeks more.
Disabled umbrella makers in Kerala are now searching in the dark for answers. Many of them were unable to buy the raw materials to make umbrellas due to the lockdown. It is hard to get supplies or go to the market due to fear of spread of Coronavirus.
Most of the umbrella makers are people with spinal cord injuries, polio and so on. They make umbrellas sitting on their wheelchairs.
50 year old Surendra Kumar from Trivandrum has a family to take care of. He has been making umbrellas for the past four years. This time, he made a few umbrellas from raw materials that he purchased last year. “Shops are open. But they do not have much stock of products. I got my disability pension for seven months from the Kerala government. So that has been a huge thing for me because I can take care of my expenses. Usually, this time every year, I get many orders”, he says.
No government support, funds to survive
There are many NGO’s that work towards empowering such disabled umbrella makers in the state. One such group is Umbrella for Differently-abled. There are hundreds of members in the group. Most of them are struggling.
38 year old Anita Rita from Kochi, who has a disability says that last year they could approach more people for help if needed. “This year, our cries for help is going unnoticed because people have bigger problems to deal with like Coronavirus. So no one pays attention to our struggles. We could earlier spread word about our umbrellas on social media which is our main tool for marketing. But now when we open it, all that we see and hear is Coronavirus”, she says. Anita has already made 25 umbrellas this year and is looking to sell them. “There are many disabled people who are sole bread winners of their family. Their condition is even sadder”, she adds.
42 year old Jomon from Thrissur says, “Last year I got many orders. But this year, when orders were supposed to be at its peak, I don’t have any. I recently got raw materials and I’am starting to make umbrellas. I’am hoping for the best”, he says.
For 35 year old Varun Kumar from Kozhikode, the struggles are similar. He says, “Last month, I fell from my wheelchair and hence I’am on bed rest. So it is impossible for me to work now. When you buy a kit for Rs 220, you can make an umbrella from it. I sell it for 300. So there is some profit. But this year, people are not interested to pay so much. We do not have any government support”.
These people with disabilities are hoping for better days when the crisis will end so they can start doing what they do best, making umbrellas!
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