The Covid pandemic has lent a severe jolt to India’s pre-existing economic slowdown. The impact of the pandemic now has resulted in a surge of job losses. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), 122 million people lost their jobs in March and April alone. Most sectors are affected, but those hit the worst include aviation, food, tourism and entertainment.
The Government’s data reveals that the pandemic has adversely impacted over 555 million workers, with the unemployment rate reaching 27.1 per cent in the beginning of May. The employment rates may have eased since the unlocking process began, but the crisis is far from over.
In the IT and BPO sector alone, 30,000 jobs have been lost, while estimates reveal that twice this number are on leave without pay currently. Hotel industry experts say that around 35 per cent of the industry may shut down, which could climb to half by the end of this year. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that around 30 lakh jobs may be lost in aviation and its allied sectors.
Open spoke to dozens of people, young and middle-aged, who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Many, including pilots and top chefs and software engineers, have been laid off. But they were not willing to come on record. Some feared that their industries were vengeful and talking about how their previous companies treated them would affect their future job prospects. Many did not want to be identified as they hoped that the lockdown will ease up further and they will join back, if not in their
previous job, then at a new place.
But some chose to speak about their experience of losing a job or source of livelihood. Here is the story of five of them.
Joe Mansoori, 45, Designer, Mumbai
Till March this year, Joe Mansoori was a successful designer. He ran a studio and workshop from Mumbai’s Bandra area, catering to over 250 clients, including several actors from Bollywood and TV industry (he has been a stylist to actors like Juhi Chawla and Raveena Tandon). His workshop employed 15 workers, who worked on designs made by Mansoori, especially bridal wear.
From March, as the coronavirus scare became pronounced, Mansoori’s orders took a big hit, till it came to a point where he says he was not even earning Rs 500.
“Many who had paid me an advance for designing festive wear asked me to hold on to it, saying they would get basic clothes made out of it later,” says Joe Mansoori
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Initially, Mansoori tried to work it out. “I told my workers that I would still pay them 50 per cent salary,” he says. But soon it was clear that he could not sustain himself. He had to shut his studio as he could no longer afford to pay the monthly rent of Rs 1 lakh. He rented a godown where he had to dump his machines and cloth material. He also had to let go of his workers.
Around this time, Mansoori’s biggest deal of the year, a bridal trousseau order from a client in London who was to have a wedding in Tuscany, came a cropper. “The client called me and said: ‘we will let you know,’” says Mansoori. Similarly, many other orders, including several from NRIs, got cancelled simply because the weddings got cancelled or they got curtailed down to a handful of guests. TV shoots and films got cancelled, too, resulting in further loss of work. “Many who had paid me an advance for designing festive wear asked me to hold on to it, saying they would get basic clothes made out of it later,” says Mansoori.
As he stayed home with his ailing mother, Mansoori fell into depression. “Every morning, I would wake up startled, thinking what will happen now,” he says. After he locked himself in his room for two days, Mansoori’s sister came and took him out. “I love my work, so I cried because I was no longer able to do it,” he says. He had to undergo a few sessions of therapy to get out of it.
Currently, Mansoori is supported by his sister and a few friends from the entertainment industry. The medicines for his mother and the grocery and electricity bills are taken care of by them. “Earlier, I would sometimes just venture out and buy snacks for a few hundred rupees. But now, I am so conscious of spending money because someone is supporting me,” he says.
But Mansoori still thinks that he is lucky that he has a support system. He speaks to his workers who have returned to their villages and are finding it difficult to run their households. “The other day I met someone in my society’s departmental store who wore proper clothes. He said he was not a beggar but someone out of job. He requested me if I could buy a little milk for his infant. He refused when I offered a little grocery as well,” says Mansoori.
He now waits for the crisis to be over. “I want to return to my work, and so do my workers,” he says.
Krishna Kumar Mishra, 42, Yoga teacher, Delhi
For almost 20 years, Krishna Kumar Mishra has been teaching Yoga in Delhi. Originally from Madhubani, Bihar, Mishra’s clients are either young professionals who have a paucity of time or elderly people who hardly venture out of their homes. So Mishra visits them at their homes to teach each one of them thrice a week.
Before the Covid-19 crisis, Mishra had about 10 regular clients, ensuring a steady income for his family—a wife and two school-going children.
But as the lockdown began, Mishra found himself stuck at home without any source of income. “Even before the lockdown, the first ones to stop taking classes were the elderly people since they are at maximum risk,” he says. Then others stopped as well.
“Even before the lockdown, the first ones to stop taking classes were the elderly people since they are at maximum risk,” says Krishna Kumar Mishra
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Only recently, three clients have resumed classes online with him. “But it is very difficult to sustain on so little,” he says.
The Yoga institute Mishra is affiliated with has 32 teachers, including him. Most of them are finding it difficult as people are scared to come in touch.
“I hope this is over soon,” he says. “I would have never imagined it.”
Neil Anthony Plumb, 33, Network Engineer, Hyderabad
On May 26th, Neil Anthony Plumb was working till 4 pm when he got a call from his company’s HR department. Plumb worked as a network engineer for three years in a software development company. “I was told that the company had to let go of some people and I was one of them. I was given a compensation for three months and asked not come to office from the next day,” he says.
Plumb’s wife works as a PR officer in an educational institute and was also forced to take a 50 per cent salary cut from the time the Covid lockdown began. So when Plumb lost his job, he felt scared. “My heart was in my mouth,” he says.
“I knew that the market was low and so many people had lost their jobs. But I stayed optimistic,” says Neil Anthony Plumb
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But Plumb says that he soon took stock of his situation. He had seen the migrant crisis unfold a few weeks ago and told himself that there were millions of people who were less fortunate than him. That helped, he says.
The couple then took a trip to Vizag where Plumb’s in-laws live. He says he started looking at it as a break, and at the same time began looking out for a job. “I knew that the market was low and so many people had lost their jobs. But I stayed optimistic,” he says.
Luckily for him, it worked out. He was called for an interview; after many rounds through video conferencing, he was asked to join.
“I know I am lucky. But it pays to keep faith,” he says.
Chetna Asopiya, 34, Talent acquisitor, Mumbai
Chetna Asopiya has worked in talent acquisition for companies like Star TV. A little less than a year ago, she was scouted by a start-up company dealing with business-to-business lifestyle. “I had always wanted to work in a start-up because I found it very exciting,” she says. So, she joined immediately.
But as soon as the coronavirus crisis struck, her company said that it was finding it difficult to sustain and had to lay off people. “There was no support, no empathy. They just called us and said they were letting us go,” she says.
“I felt as if there were some problem with me and forgot that so many talented and hardworking people around me were losing their jobs in a similar fashion,” says Chetna Asopiya
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Suddenly, she found herself without a job; it is then that she began to feel low. “I kept on thinking, why me?” she asks. “I felt as if there were some problem with me and forgot that so many talented and hardworking people around me were losing their jobs in a similar fashion,” she says.
She struggled with her lows for two weeks before she decided to look up, telling herself that there could be a silver lining to the situation. “I realised it is a good time to take stock of my life and see what I am really good at,” she says.
Chetna has now started designing coasters which she has put up online for sale. “So far, I have only got 20 orders, but I can make it grow,” she says.
Once the crisis is over, Chetna hopes that she can return to work. “The most important thing, meanwhile, is to not sit idle and overthink, because that will get you nowhere. It is important to stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she says.
Bilal Ahmed, 36, IT Manager, Noida
Bilal Ahmed worked in a travel company for over 10 years as an associate engineering manager. From March, his company asked its employees to work from home.
On March 27th, just a few days after the first lockdown, the company addressed over 60 employees in batches over a Zoom call and asked them to go on leave without pay for three months, extendable if need be. “We were asked to get in touch with HR if we wanted to, and we did. But nothing came out of it,” he says.
Bilal is married and suddenly found himself without a job and EMIs to pay, including one for a house loan he had taken earlier. “I had been working in this company for more than 10 years. It was doing well, so the thought that I will lose my job hadn’t even crossed my mind,” he says.
“I had been working in this company for more than 10 years. It was doing well, so the thought that I will lose my job hadn’t even crossed my mind,” says Bilal Ahmed
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In desperation, he lodged a complaint with the Chief Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office and with the Noida District Magistrate. “The Government had issued advisory that no company should leave its employees in the lurch,” he recalls. But nothing came out of it.
In June, the company extended their furlough. With no income, Ahmed says his friends are helping him pay his EMIs. But he is not sure for how long this can go on. He is looking for a job, but knows that it could be difficult given the current scenario. “But I am hopeful,” he says.