Nalgonda barbers protest against competition from ‘outsiders’

Taking cue from the fortnight-long protests by their brothers in Mancherial district, barbers in Nalgonda are preparing to launch a movement against competition from ‘outsiders’, or what they call ‘corporate salons’.

As a starter, Nayi Brahmin workers and owners downed their salon shutters in Nalgonda town on Thursday, like on Tuesday, the traditional week-off of barbers, and took to the streets in protest. The demonstrations ended with submission of a petition of grievance and demands to the district authorities.

But the solution is not with the authorities, the protesters are convinced, and they say they have always faced a tough question in return: “Why non-Nayi Brahmin men can’t run salons, is it legally prohibited?”

The main grievance of the barbers, whose age-old caste-based occupation is hairdressing besides performing birth and death rituals, is ‘corporate salons’ or salons set up by persons other than men from the Nayi Brahmin community.

They say the ‘corporates’ are eating into their traditional occupation, with Muslim workers from Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. For Nalgonda town, which has about 250 salons and some 200 roadside ‘salon boxes’, even a dozen ‘other salons’ is a threat, they say.

“I charge ₹50 or less for a shave as per the rate fixed by the Association. The same service is for ₹100 or more in a corporate salon, because they create the ambience. In a city like Hyderabad, such salons are fine because they pay huge rents to locate themselves on main roads. But in Nalgonda, one such corporate salon means destruction of some livelihoods,” says M. Satyanarayana of Ramagiri.

For L. Venkateswarlu, on the arterial Hyderabad road in Nalgonda, the government should intervene to protect the community’s occupation, like it has been assisting Golla-Kuruma, Padmashali, Gouda, Bestha and Mudiraj communities.

According to Nayi Brahmin Association district president Nelapatla Ramesh, the government should bring an order to make the occupation exclusive for the community men. It should extend loans to help set up modern salons, give barbers in temples a decent pay and establish a sustainable community welfare fund.

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