Losing jobs to COVID pandemic, people sell face masks to survive
COVID-19, Feature Articles

Losing jobs to COVID pandemic, people sell face masks to survive

July 12, 2020

Face masks too have transformed — from monotonous white ones to stylish and designer wear

By S.B. Devaraj

Masks will become a symbol of a civilised society. If you want to protect yourselves and others from the disease, the use of a mask is important,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in his address to the nation via the radio programme Mann Ki Baat.

It began with people wearing masks as protective gear against air pollution that saw a spike in recent times in many parts of the country. Now with the Coronavirus pandemic, masks have become a necessity, so much so that medical stores and other suppliers are having a hard time meeting its burgeoning demand.

Mask making, selling and distributing has turned into a viable livelihood option for many during these times of distress. Now people are dumping surgical masks for designer face covers which can be paired with their dresses. It’s evident from the fact that the sale of normal masks has come down while the sale of designer masks gone up.

Masks are manufactured in almost all colours and designs as preferred by men, women and children. Now thousands of designer masks are being manufactured in various hosiery units across the country. They range between Rs. 100 and Rs. 300 and are sold at double the price in the market.

A lucrative business

Making and marketing masks have become a good source of income for thousands of people who have lost their profession, business or jobs due to the pandemic. Many people belonging to various professions and jobs such as auto and cab drivers, factory workers, shop employees, small business operators, chat centre owners, fruit juice sellers have switched over to mask-making and marketing. 

Facing a lot hardship due to loss of income, they went in search of an alternative profession when they found that making and selling of face masks — the wearing of which has been made mandatory by the Government as a safety measure against COVID-19 — a lucrative business.

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Wasting no time, some of them got down to the business in right earnest by moving around public joints and other prominent public places in bicycles or two-wheelers to sell masks .These enterprising people move around busy junctions and tourist spots such as Mysore Palace, Chamundi Hill, Sub-Urban Bus Stand, City Bus Stand, Kukkarahalli Lake, Crawford Hall, markets in the hub of the city, Court Complex and such other venues, where people gather in large numbers and sell face masks at affordable prices. Some street vendors, taking cue from them, too sell face masks to motorists who stop at traffic signals on busy roads.

While some jobless people are procuring face masks at wholesale rates and selling them with a margin to buyers, a few others are making them on their own and selling it for a handsome profit.

Tourist guide to mask seller

Yogesh, a tourist guide and a resident of Gandhinagar, said that he was deeply disturbed when the COVID-19 lockdown was enforced. “The plight of sustaining my family at this critical juncture, I thought of a novel idea of selling masks, as it had become a hot selling one with the Government making it mandatory for everyone to wear it,” he said. 

Stating that he buys hundreds of masks at wholesale rates and sells them for a profit to the people moving on his scooter to various destinations, Yogesh said that he earns about Rs. 200 on an average everyday, which is just enough for his family’s daily needs.

Manjunath, a resident of old Bandikeri, said that he used to sell bangles near the Palace during the day and work at a snacks centre in the evening. But now both his business and the snacks centre have shut down and finding no other way of livelihood, he took to selling masks.

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Alternative option

“I sell masks everyday standing near Crawford Hall and the City Law Courts Complex and earn about Rs. 200 a day,” he said and added that his business depends entirely on the number of people visiting these places.

Salim, a Tongawalla, said that he has stopped riding his Tonga as there are hardly any takers. Tourists have stopped arriving in city. “Realising that it will take at least a year for the revival of tourism sector, I took to selling of masks to earn a livelihood,” he said adding that most of his fellow tongawallas too have taken to mask selling or other similar small business.

The latest masks look different — made of coloured or printed fabric they are nothing close to the monotonous black, grey or white masks that we were buying earlier. The branded products came to be available in attractive designs, packaged at varying price range, as people began to opt for colourful designer masks.

Masks disposal

Meanwhile, as the sale of masks is going on briskly in city, the question of disposal of used masks too comes to the fore at the same time. People should not throw used masks in their dustbin or indiscreetly elsewhere.

Used masks should be stocked in a separate plastic cover and handed over to civic workers who visit households every day. Used masks are treated as clinical waste, indiscreet throwing and disposal of face masks invite penalty by the civic authorities.

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