LOCKDOWN & LIVELIHOODS

Dhaba owners stare at uncertain future in Himachal

Dhaba owners stare at uncertain future in Himachal

Workers of a dhaba in Dharamsala wait for customers, who are apperhensive of eating out.

Lalit Mohan

Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, June 14

Dhaba owners in Himachal are facing an uncertain future. The state government had from June 1 allowed all roadside dhabas to function till 7 pm, but their business is yet to pick up.

Kartik Punjabi Dhaba is a famous eating point in the Ranital area. Though the dhaba has opened every day after June 6, it has hardly received customers. Sanjeev Kumar, owner of the dhaba, says, “Before the lockdown, I did a brisk business. However, I have not earned even a single penny for the past about three months. I have six permanent employees, all of them locals. I am paying them a sustenance amount for the past three months. They have been working with me for years and I cannot leave them in this difficult time”.

Not a penny earned

Before the lockdown, I did a brisk business. However, I have not earned even a single penny for the past about three months. I have six permanent employees, all of them locals. I am paying them a sustenance amount for the past three months. They have been working with me for years and I cannot leave them in this difficult time. —Sanjeev Kumar, Owner of Kartik Punjabi Dhaba

Sanjeev says that most of their customers are tourists travelling on Dharamsala-Kangra-Jawalamukhi-Una roads. “A majority of our customers are temple tourists coming from the adjoining states. However, now none is coming. Even local customers are not coming to dhabas due to the fear of coronavirus. If business fails to pick up for another couple of months, it will be difficult for me to pay even the sustenance allowance to my employees,” he adds.

Sudhir Kumar, owner of another dhaba near Dehra, says, “My business was mainly dependent on passengers of public transport buses and tourists. Since my dhaba is located in a rural area, a few local customers used to come here. My business was mostly dependent on tourists. For the past about three months, I have earned virtually nothing”.

Small dhaba owners of Himachal come under the unorganised sector. Those who run these small dhabas are self-employed people. Since they fall in the unorganised sector, they are not eligible for assistance under any financial scheme of the Union Government.

However, what has helped most of the dhaba owners in Kangra district to survive is that they are running their businesses in their own buildings and do not have to pay rent. Some of them have taken bank loans for the construction of the buildings. In case, they do not get customers back, it will be difficult for them to retain their employees, most of them rural youth.

The dhaba owners have urged the state government to provide them some kind of direct financial aid so that they can sustain their businesses and pay salaries to their employees.

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