Lockdown | Barbers back in enterprise, but not out of the woods yet

After weeks of lockdown, salons across the State, barring those in Chennai and in containment zones, were allowed to resume operations on Sunday, subject to certain conditions.

But the lockdown has already taken a toll on the hairdressing industry, as thousands of barbers have been out of work for more than two months. The closure of salons, a majority of which fall under the unorganised sector, had pushed hairdressers and their families into penury.

For those working in the industry in Chennai, there are testing times ahead. M. Rukmangathan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Hairdressers’ Union (Kancheepuram and Chengalpattu), said there were over 20,000 shops in the two districts. But more than 5,000 shops across Chromepet, Pallavaram, Medavakkam, Tambaram, Vandalur and Peerkankarani could not be opened as they fell under the Chennai City Police limits, and the law enforcement authorities concerned had not permitted them to resume operations.

The State government had announced financial assistance of ₹2,000 to hairdressers, including those who have not registered themselves with the Tamil Nadu Hair Dressers’ Welfare Board. But members of the Tamil Nadu Hairdressers’ Union — one of the oldest hairdressers’ unions, formed in 1954 — said they had not received the aid promised by the Chief Minister.

Guna, who runs a salon in Tambaram, said that when the members of the union approached the village officials, the latter claimed that they had not received any circular about the aid.

Salon operators in the districts of Tiruchi, Coimbatore and Madurai complained that they had not received the welfare assistance of ₹2,000 promised by the State government for members of welfare boards under the unorganised sector.

“The announcement on the financial assistance was made in April, but the aid has not been provided even to hairdressers who have registered themselves with the welfare board,” said P. Dharmalingam, secretary, Tiruchi District Barbers’ Association. At least 1,050 shop owners were registered with the welfare board, he added.

While hairdressers have been complaining about the non-payment of financial aid, customers say salons have not been following government norms, with many shops running with the air conditioners on. Though the government had asked them to use gloves while working, hairdressers said this was not practical, as doing so would make it difficult to trim hair to perfection.

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