Many persons with disabilities say their small businesses have been impacted due to COVID-19, and they are now finding it hard to make ends meet
For 35-year-old S. Kumar alias Maan Kumar, a person with a disability living in Perumbakkam, life has been hard post COVID-19. Mr. Kumar used to run a mobile tea shop in the locality that helped feed his family and educate his children. But now he has no with no source of an income.
“I have to crawl to reach from one place to another. After the pandemic all small businesses, like mine, have been impacted. It is really hard to make ends meet,” he said.
T.M.N. Deepak, State president, December 3 movement, a disability rights organisation, said there are more than 400 people like Mr. Kumar in Perumbakkam alone, who are in dire need of help.
Despite his setbacks, Mr. Kumar has not stopped helping others. As part of the December 3 Movement in the Perumbakkam tenements, he has been speaking to local administration officials and different government departments to provide employment opportunities for the persons with disabilities in the tenements.
“I am tying to get them into the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA). I am also co-ordinating with officials to set up petty shops,” added Mr. Kumar.
Sujatha Kandan, who is part of the Samudyathai Maatrum Matruthiranaligal Anaithu Vagai Nala Sangam in Peurmbakkam, said that it would be helpful if the government provides jobs in different departments. “We are also seeking help from NGOs to start small business units. It would be helpful if an Amma Unavagam is started inside. Apart from food, it will also provide employment to many,” she said.
It is not just persons with disabilities — other residents in the tenements have also been left unemployed ever since they were shifted to Perumbakkam, says a study jointly conducted by the Housing for Land Rights Network (HLRN) and the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
The study was, ‘Assessing the Impact of Resettlement on Livelihoods of Families in Perumbakkam, Chennai : Integrated Cooum River Eco-Restoration Plan (ICRERP).’ As part of this 1,314 families were chosen as respondents and out of these, 1,095 were women and 219 were men. Among them 55 were persons with disabilities. The study pointed out that a total of 629 persons, among the respondents, had lost their jobs after relocation.
“Many of us who got resettled are daily wage earners, especially domestic help. It is hard to travel and reach our workplace on time. Hence we lost our jobs,” said a resident.
A Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) official said that during the COVID-19 pandemic they helped people with groceries by coordinating with NGOs. “Regarding employment, all other government departments should coordinate with TNSCB to help provide jobs for residents,” said an official.