As many leave Hyd over fears of lockdown, shortage of plumbers, electricians in city

With the possibility of another lockdown, several self-employed plumbers and electricians have left Hyderabad for their natives.
As many leave Hyd over fears of lockdown, shortage of plumbers, electricians in city
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Jahangir, a plumber residing at Erragadda had enough business to sustain himself during the two months lockdown in April and May. “There were not many coronavirus cases then. But things are different now,” he says.

Jahangir left Hyderabad on July 3 to be with his family in Medak district, his native place. The reasons behind his sudden departure were news reports speculating another lockdown in Hyderabad, perhaps even stricter than the ones earlier, in light of the growing number of COVID-19 patients in the city, which presently has 10,904 patients under treatment for COVID-19. A total of 23,902 people have tested coronavirus positive in Hyderabad till date.

Since last week, the city has witnessed an exodus of sorts, with many choosing to leave for their home districts to avoid being stranded if a lockdown is imposed. Among those that packed their bags and left were several self-employed technicians working as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and painters in Hyderabad.   

The final decision on whether another lockdown will be put in place in Hyderabad is to be taken by the Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao after a cabinet meeting. “Hyderabad is a metropolitan city where one crore people live. It is natural that like other cities in the country, the spread of coronavirus is high. People started moving around after the lockdown was lifted. Other cities in the country are also thinking on these lines,” KCR had said June 28.

"Let us examine the situation keenly for two to three days. If need be, the cabinet will be convened in three to four days to discuss proposals for the lockdown, alternatives and other related issues and a decision will be taken,” the chief minister added.

Seven days, however, no cabinet meetings have taken place, and no clarifications have been made to allay the public’s apprehensions of a possible lockdown. 

In the meantime, Hyderabad residents are facing difficulties and getting plumbers and electricians for their repair requirements.

Long waiting time to hire a plumber or electrician

Munawar, a plumber, is a busy man these days. One needs to wait up to six days to get an appointment with this plumber. “I finish work at two houses and the day is almost over. I have had to reject a lot of work because of no time. A lot of my friends who are plumbers left for their hometowns, and I am now taking care of their customers,” says the 61-year-old who falls in the high-risk category for the COVID-19 due to his diabetes diagnosis. When asked about his safety while at work, the man replies, “I have left it to god. For safety I am wearing a mask, that's all.”

Jagan, working at Sri Balaji Electricals and Plumbing, a hardware store along the Balkampet road, says these days a customer has to wait up to five days to hire a plumber. “There are only two persons who are Hyderabad locals, the rest of the 15 plumbers and electricians have left. The business here is also dull,” says Jagan, an apprentice electrician who has chosen not to make new house calls at this time. “Only a few customers who know us call. Since March, I haven't taken any new customers,” he adds.

There are several electrical and plumbing hardware stores along the Balkampet road at SR Nagar. If one is not hiring a technician from platforms like Urban Company, Housejoy or Just Dial, these hardware stores are often scouted for hiring technicians locally. 

A Housejoy spokesperson told TNM that the ambiguity surrounding a possible lockdown in Hyderabad has also impacted their service “The reactions of our workers in Hyderabad are no different from the rest of the people who are apprehensive about working or travelling especially in the present circumstance. A few of them have returned to their respective homes due to COVID-19,” the spokesperson said, adding that completing projects within the stipulated time with the limited workforce is a challenge.

TNM reached out to Urban Company on whether their service has been impacted, but it is yet to respond.

Concerns of safety

For Srisailam, taking up a job as an electrician at the Biodiversity Park, a nature reserve, seemed a safer option than visiting homes. “I don't make house calls anymore as it’s risky. The present job is a straight 9 am to 5 pm job. I still get a lot of job calls, there is demand, but I choose only customers known personally to me. However, my family sometimes still tells me not to accept those calls. The pandemic will blow over, but if I refuse the work, then I will lose that customer forever,” he says. 

Meanwhile, Srisailam’s brother, an AC mechanic, has returned back to his native Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, fearing a possible lockdown.

“There is no shortage of work in Hyderabad – even during the pandemic – but the question is of safety,” says Jahangir. “People call me for plumbing work in my native village too, so I am not worried about income. But in Hyderabad, we visit a lot of people's homes and can never know if the people in the house are sick.” 

A difficult time for some

Tayyab Taher, another plumber, depends on calls from Just Dial. But for the last five days, there has been no work, even though on ground there seems to be a high demand for plumbers. Tayyab provides services mainly in the Masab Tank and Mehdipatanam localities of Hyderabad.

“People don't want to invite a stranger into their homes, especially now, given the pandemic. We go to different homes and several houses in the area where I work have positive cases,” shares Tayyab. The prospect of another lockdown terrifies him. “Those who are from the villages have gone back. The work ideally should be more for me, but I am living and servicing in an area that's considered a hotspot. A new lockdown means even the two customers I get a week will stop.”

A desperate Tayyab even told this reporter, “Sir if you have any plumbing work, do tell me. I don't mind the distance; I will come to work in any part of the city.”

As of July 8, the KCR is yet to clarify if the state will go into a 15-day lockdown

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