Demonetisation disaster: Aligarh lock industry struggles for survival

As the centuries-old lock industry stares at an uncertain future, thousands of jobless lock makers have been struggling to find alternative remunerative livelihood sources

Photo by Pramod Pushkarna 
Photo by Pramod Pushkarna
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Ashutosh Sharma

A year after demonetisation, lock-makers of Delhi Darwaza, Shahjamaal, Pathan Mohalla, Upper Kote, Bhuj Pura and other areas in and around Aligarh remain a worried lot.

The fabled lock industry today stares at an uncertain future. While many units have shut down, others are struggling for survival.

Even the highly skilled lock-makers who became partially or fully jobless, have been struggling to find alternative work for earning remunerative livelihoods.

“My son used to earn between ₹500-600 daily. But after losing his job, he became an e-rickshaw operator,” informs Akhtar Khan (70), a resident of Ek Minar Masjid, Aligarh.

“At times, he doesn’t get an e-rickshaw to earn his living. The local contractor rents out rickshaws to only those who approach him first in the morning and make the lowest bid for the day,” the septuagenarian added. “Since demonetisation, unemployment has become so widespread that even skilled workers who had been making locks for the past 10-20 years, are compelled to do menial jobs to support their families.”

Muhammad Shahideen, a small lock manufacturer and trader, said “Before demonetisation, we would make around 1,000 locks every week. But now we make only 200-300 locks as there is no demand in the market.”

“Those units which got closed down during demonetisation, have not revived so far,” says Imran (35), who has been a locksmith for 15 years. “Despite several hardships that we faced during demonetisation due to joblessness, there was hope that things will improve in future. But today we are completely hopeless,” said Imran, who works at a small unit in Shahjamaal area. “Earlier, I would earn about ₹7,000 every month but now I hardly earn even ₹3,000.”

Photo by Pramod Pushkarna
Photo by Pramod Pushkarna
File photo of Imran

Sunil Dutta, an industrialist and general secretary of Tala Nagri Industrial Development Association, claimed that the overall production, sale and employment in Aligarh lock industry has come down to 50 per cent as compared to the last year. “Demonetisation hit 80 per cent of our total production. Most of our skilled workers were from villages in adjoining districts. They went back home and are engaged in other sectors,” he said. “The manufacturing sector in the small scale and cottage industry segment faced a lull in the last quarter of this financial year too. We were recovering from the demonetisation shock when GST further compounded our problems. Now we are finding it even difficult to retain the remaining workforce for long,” he added.

“Small-scale industry owners operate on borrowed money, personal contacts and reference. By treating them as hoarders of black money, the government has done great injustice to them,” he maintained.

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