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Remember the time when we used to get worried about getting a decent haircut. Though this is the recent past, it feels like we haven’t pampered our hair for many years.

The sudden outbreak of Novel Coronavirus has completely locked everyone home for an uncertain period. Time and conditions have also changed drastically for everyone including wealthy businessmen to the hawkers or daily earners. Reaching to the salon for the desired haircut with some facial treatments has become merely an imagination. And certainly, No one knows when we will be able to observe ourselves again in the glossy mirror of our favourite salon with a variety of facial creams, combs, and variety of scissors.

The awful part is that the most crowded and busy shops on every Sunday are now in dark. Haircutting seems difficult with physical and social distancing and is questionable for many of us. The Salon Industry doesn't come under the government's list of essential services during the lockdown, but with every passing day, many of us who haven't had haircuts are growing restless. Most are waiting for the situation to improve to get it done and some are doing it by themselves, while some are getting help from their family members. Now just think about the barbers who don't have any options like us and in an absolute helpless condition. The salon business has been facing many challenges, a lot of small shops across the states and country are going through a tough time, Barbers’ livelihood across the nation has been hit severely. A few are even adopting illegal means by reaching their customer's homes in the lockdown. A lot of them have also not registered legally with the government authorities in India, making it difficult for them to get all the benefits given by the government which they might have received otherwise. Only when they open their shops, their livelihood will begin and improve, they are currently stuck somewhere between 'essential' and 'avoidable’ services.

In India, this is largely an unorganized sector and there are many barbers we can see who work on their own and wander to get few customers from small areas and chawls. Barbers roam in numerous small colonies or chawls to find few customers. They manage to settle in a tiny stool or brick as a quick seat for their customer and open their tool kit with a small mirror to showcase their magical skills of hair cutting, shaving and other stylings. Sometimes they also provide a complementary ‘champi’ (head massage) to their customers. For the people with very limited earnings, this treatment is their own kind of lavish spa therapy and barbers earn few bucks as well. Several big cities of our nation have huge number of barbers who have come from north Indian states and work on footpaths without any shelter and wander through these chawls which gives them hardly Rs. 300 to 400 in a day or sometimes even lesser than that, but, they become remarkably tough because of such problems and manage to run the show anyhow.

enter image description here Image Credit:www.nomadbarber.com

The virus totally ruined the routine of this community. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on the manpower in general and migrant barbers in particular, a large number of such barbers have returned to their state also. But many of migrant barbers who had returned to their native states from various parts of the country during the lockdown, are now trying to get back to their work because of an unemployment.

Many barbers are secretly working during the pandemic for their livelihood, despite it being against the rules. On April 13, 2020, Times of India (TOI) published a piece of paper from Vadodara, Gujarat, that Panigate, Gujarat police arrested 11 men apart from a barber for disobeying police notification and lockdown rules. The men went out for their routine Sunday morning but ended up sitting on hot benches of the police station. Even an apex body of the barbers in Maharashtra, India reported that their condition is among the worst in India. "Our condition is going from bad to worse," says Dattatreya Anarase, the President of Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal. According to him, Maharashtra has around five lakh barbers’ shop with 15 to 20 lakh barbers, adding that while small shops on the outback may earn Rs. 300 to Rs. 500 per day. The formula is simple, the shop owner gets 50 per cent and the workers 50 per cent, adding that in Maharashtra half of the workforce are migrant workers. "We have to give rent, electricity bills among other things," he said. "This is largely an unorganized sector and there is no help whatsoever from the government," said Anarase, who is based in Mumbai.
(Source- Deccan Herald)

After months of lockdown, salons across the nation were allowed to proceed with haircuts except for shaves and other things, from March 6, they were under an obligation to follow few conditions like protective gears, masks, disinfecting the chairs, door and other places. While safety is the primary concern, the dilemma of barbers to afford this level of safety is another issue to be addressed separately as many of them are not literate or not tend to follow the safety guidelines. Most salons in the country have not just lost businesses in the last 3-4 months, but have also been paying rent, water and electricity bills during this period, and are now left broke and helpless.

Whenever the lockdown ends, the longest lines would be outside barber's saloons but, the shutting down of salons, a majority of which fall under the unorganised sector, had pushed barbers and their families towards a massive crisis.