When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his much-debated decision to demonetise Rs 500, Rs 1000, Opposition cast aspersions over the move alleging that it will be detrimental to the country’s economy and lead to job loss. Unfortunately, around 1,800 factories manufacturing everything from shoes to coolants and vehicle engines in Mayapuri Industrial Area in West Delhi have fallen largely silent over the last month, according to the Indian Express report. This came as reports were there that Industry was staring at temporary job losses due to demonetisation, as production gets hit, especially in labour-intensive sectors like textiles, garments, leather and jewellery. As many as 4 lakh people, mostly daily wagers, may have either lost their jobs or shunned work temporarily due to the lack of payment so far, and the number is only going to grow if the cash crunch persists, senior industry executives said on condition of anonymity. They, however, added that this estimate is based primarily on anecdotal evidence and that a clearer picture will emerge in the weeks to come. Earlier, the government had sought to soothe concerns of layoff in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that employ 80 million people against the backdrop of demonetisation, saying the decision might cause initial problems but will not impact job scenario in the sector. “There can be initial problems due to demonetisation, but after the currency flow regularises, it will help the sector,” Union MSME Minister Kalraj Mishra had said.
Factory workers and labourers were looking for other means to mitigate the needs. The only ones seeing brisk business are eight glitzy banquet halls on the Ring Road, veiling Mayapuri’s sooty factories and crumbling jhuggies. It’s to these banquet halls that Shiv Kumar, 20, has turned since the owner of a slipper manufacturing unit fired him and around 80 others after demand plummeted post the November 8 demonetisation. Kumar, who worked as a thread cutter on the finishing line at the factory, earning Rs 7,000 a month, is now employed as a “masalchi” at S K Royal Ornate Banquet hall, cleaning dirty utensils, the report said.
Every job has its pros and cons and Kumar has been experiencing that. “Work at the banquet hall is both good and bad. It’s good because we are fed leftovers from parties so I don’t have to worry about meals. But the timings are bad because parties go on late into the night. We come home at 4 am every day after 16 hours of work,” Kumar said. Kumar also vent his frustration, saying that while he may end up earning the same money as he did at the factory, washing between 200 and 400 utensils a day the work can’t be compared to what he used to do.
Another one is Gulab Singh. He worked as a helper on the power press in a crush metal scrap factory. In an ironic twist of fate, the 30-year-old was fired on November 12 after the factory ran out of work. Now he runs a chicken shop. “I called up my factory owner later, but he still does not have enough work to hire me back. The other factories in Mayapuri too either have no jobs or the money they are paying has fallen to half of minimum wage. I decided to set up the shop in my room with Rs 4,000, money that I had managed to save through the year,” he said. Though Singh admitted that he has not been able to master the art of quartering chicken yet, but his buyers, from the jhuggis of Mayapuri, are not too choosy. Given the lack of small cash with most people, chicken prices too have dropped here, from Rs 160 to Rs 140 a kilogram. Singh manages to make a little over Rs 200 on most days.
Rishi Soni, 25, used to work as a line supervisor overseeing assembly of ‘Chinese’ mobile phones at a factory. It shut on November 25 because the owner did not have enough money to meet the minimum order limit. Soni says the owner has promised all 80 of them that he would open again in March and re-hire them. For the intervening months, Soni is making ends meet with a small momo stall he sets up every evening in a Subhash Nagar market, 3 km away. “I spent two years learning so as to graduate from a helper on the line to a line supervisor monitoring 40 helpers, and now I sell momos. It is a little embarrassing but this is an emergency measure,” he says.
Guddi Devi was fired from the same factory as Shiv Kumar. She had been working for seven years there, and would trim excess rubber from the soles of slippers. Three years ago, her 18-year-old son Birju too joined her at the factory. Trained to run the press which emblazons patterns on slippers, he is a “karigar (artisan)”, and due to his specific skill, is among those to have retained their job post-demonetisation.