Samrat Rane uses English, Hindi and Marathi while advertising his incense sticks, standing near Samadevi Galli in Belagavi old city.
He starts by saying that he procures them from self-help groups of women and from physically disabled youth in Belagavi and Maharashtra. He speaks about the benefits of meditation and pooja, and soon, he starts sounding philosophical, quoting Buddha and Marathi saints like Tukaram and Namdev. “That comes from force of habit. This is how I taught English to students,” says Mr. Rane. The visually-challenged former teacher has a postgraduate degree in English from a university in Maharashtra.
Samarthanam Trust, an NGO, had employed him to teach English to visually challenged children. But he was laid off during the lockdown. “I had to pay rent and feed my family. But I could not go back to Maharashtra. I had to look for some means of livelihood. Some friends helped me get in touch with some women and some disabled youth who made incense sticks. I became a vendor. Sometimes, people stop just to listen to me speak. That makes me happy,” he said. Pushkar Bumb, a young entrepreneur, says such people need to be encouraged. “I not only buy from him, but also refer his products to my friends,” Mr. Bumb said.
Mr. Rane is one among many who had to switch professions due to the extended lockdown.
Lagamanna Balur was a foreman in a factory in Udyambag in Belagavi. He was laid off and no one would hire him. He spoke to the wholesaler who supplied vegetables to the factory. “He agreed to give me a few bags of vegetable on credit and I began selling them on my bike door to door,” he said. A few months later, he got a shop on rent in Rani Channamma Nagar. Now he sells vegetables, fruits, milk and sweets.
Sarala Satpute was a journalist with a local Kannada daily. She was relieved during the lockdown. Her husband Sagar Satpute, a weaver, had to sell his loom after suffering heavy losses. The couple got a shop on rent in Janata chowk in Wadagaon to provide e-governance services.
“I had to pass the licensing examination to set up a Grahaka Seva Kendra (Common Service Centre) under the digital India project. I help poor people get benefits of Central and State government schemes,” says Ms. Satpute. Her Siddarth CSC centre in Teggina Galli has also become a place for the weavers of Shahapur and Wadagon to sit and discuss issues plaguing them.
Ramachandra Chulaki had bought an autorickshaw after taking a bank loan. But the strict lockdown meant that he could not get rides for more than a month. “I began to see advertisements asking people to wear masks. But I knew that there was no way people could go out and buy masks. So my wife and I began stitching masks at home, with my children helping us out. I began riding the autorickshaw around the city selling them. When some policemen stopped me, I gave them some masks free,” he said.
Now, he stops his vehicle laden with masks at a busy street and sells them. “I have divided masks based on age groups, as young people do not buy masks meant for the old,” he said. On occasions, he has door delivered masks to senior citizens.
This content was originally published here.