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Post-Covid conquest: Dharavi Inc. raring to buzz with biz

Though businesses may soon return to Dharavi, it’s unlikely that camera-toting domestic or foreign tourists will rush there in the near future, as in the past.

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Leather Bag

Mumbai, July 5 : As the gnawing fears of Covid-19 recedes from Dharavi, the local trade, business and commercial activities have woken up from their four-month long hibernation and are now raring to go at full steam for the kill, major players said.

The development comes on the heels of the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) effecting a gradual withdrawal from Dharavi as Corona deaths and patients were on the verge of complete control by June-end (IANS reported on June 21).

Besides notoriety as Asia’s largest slum spread over 2.25 sq.kms, Dharavi also enjoys global fame for some of its local products, especially leather goods, high-end or bridal garments, jewelleries, certain handicrafts, and domestically for plastic recycling, metal fabrication, household stuff, etc.

While the leather industry is among the mega-money spinners contributing around Rs 300-crore, the total estimated annual turnover from the tiny Dharavi is estimated to be around Rs 7,000 crore.

“We have around 650 leather manufacturers, over 500 retailers and 2,500 others directly collaborating with usa Overall, there are more than 20,000 big-medium-small industries thriving here,” Dharavi Leather Goods Manufacturing Association (LIGMA) Working President Rajesh Sonawane told IANS.

Started as a workers’ settlement 135 years ago on the outskirts of the then Bombay, Dharavi — literally meaning ‘quick sand’ — covers just 2.25 sq. km housing over 200,000 families, living in congested squalid settings — proving a sitting duck for the Coronavirus and almost pushing it to the brink in April-May.

“Since the past week, work has started in spurts as there is labour shortage… Most of our migrant labourers were shifted out in the past four months, we are trying to bring them back… We hope to resume full-scale by September,” Dharavi Garments Manufacturers Association President Haji Babbu Khan told IANS.

A Congress BMC Corporator, Khan said akin to leather, the garment industry also has clientele worldwide for its printed raw materials, ladies garments, world-class zari apparels which are used for bridal attires in many countries.

“We generate around Rs.1000-crore business annually, support lakhs of allied industries and workers’ families, we will start as soon as possible maintaining full Covid protocols,” Khan assured.

A plastic recycling trader Pradip Menon said after four months of lockdown, the problem is less “about business, but more about workers”, and until they return, industries cannot resume full-scale.

“In the past few months, more than 400,000 migrants deserted Dharavi due to the virus, but many were skilled workers, some masters in their crafts. We are paying for their return, assuring them all types of safety precautions and bringing them back,” said Menon.

However, Dharavi Rehabilitation Committee (DRC) President Raju Korde feels the people have done their mite during the pandemic, now it’s the turn of the government to give them a good life.

“The Integrated Township Project has been pending since 16 years. Half a dozen governments have come and gone, but Dharavi remains unchanged… On July 20, we will take out a ‘morcha’ demanding the long-promised redevelopment here,” Korde said.

A member of Kirana Shops Association S.A. Wahid, alias Bablu Syed, says of the 500-plus grocery outlets in Dharavi, besides, more than 2500 other shops, businesses, eateries, etc, majority have opened partially, awaiting their workers.

“For the next two months, all trains coming to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, are said to be fully booked… That’s a positive sign for us,” smiled Bablu Syed.

Known for congestion, 10 or more living in cramped 100-sq.feet rooms or workshops, public toilets used by 1,000-plus daily, accompanied by dirt, squalor, unhygienic conditions, the Dharavi ‘Corona miracle’ is now a victory trophy of the BMC plus a trend-setter being replicated in other parts of Mumbai to control the pandemic.

The slum has been the subject of several Indian films — “Dharavi” (1993 Hindi, National Award Winner) and international (“Slumdog Millionaire”, 2008 English, multiple Oscar Award Winner) films, and books (Gregory David Roberts’ 2003 bestseller “Shantaram”) It sprawls from Mahim on Western Railway to Sion-Matunga on Central Railway and spills over into many adjoining areas.

A quick saunter down Dharavi today reveals a new sense of responsibility and wariness among the locals, most sporting masks, some even gloves, largely maintaining physical distancing, at least on roads and outside public toilets, and looking forward to the future.

Though businesses may soon return to Dharavi, it’s unlikely that camera-toting domestic or foreign tourists will rush there in the near future, as in the past.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

Business

India’s consumer price inflation rises as food prices soar

As per the data, the CPI YoY inflation rate for vegetables and pulses jumped by 11.29 per cent and 15.92 per cent, respectively, in July.

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Inflation

New Delhi, Aug 14 : A substantial rise in food prices lifted India’s July retail inflation to 6.93 per cent from 6.23 per cent in June, official data showed on Thursday.

On a year-on-year (YoY) basis, the CPI inflation more than doubled last month from 3.15 per cent recorded during July 2019.

The data furnished by the National Statistical Office (NSO) showed that India’s consumer food price index during the month under review rose to 9.62 per cent from 8.72 per cent reported for June 2020.

CFPI readings measure the changes in retail prices of food products.

“As the various pandemic-related restrictions were gradually lifted and non- essential activities started resuming operations, availability of price data has also improved,” the NSO said.

“The NSO collected prices from 1,054 (95 per cent) urban markets and 1,089 (92 per cent) villages during the month of July 2020,” it said.

The data showed that CPI Urban rose to 6.84 per cent in July from 6.12 per cent in June. The CPI rural increased to 7.04 per cent last month from 6.34 p er cent in June.

The data assumes significance as the Reserve Bank of India, in its recent monetary policy review, maintained the key lending rates on account of rising retail inflation.

The central bank’s target for retail inflation is set within a band of +/-2 per cent.

As per the data, the CPI YoY inflation rate for vegetables and pulses jumped by 11.29 per cent and 15.92 per cent, respectively, in July.

Furthermore, meat and fish prices rose 18.81 per cent and eggs became dearer by 8.79 per cent.

In addition, the fuel and light category under CPI rose by 2.80 per cent.

“Clearly, the larger concern is the impact of consistently high food inflation on core inflation through cost push factors; the relatively high figure for transport and communication is a reflection of high tax driven fuel prices and increase in telecom tariffs,” said Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer, Acuite Ratings & Research.

“We believe that inflationary concerns may lead to a delay in further rate cuts and can raise the risks of stagflation. It is also expected to have an adverse impact on bond yields in the near term and may trigger the higher use of liquidity and yield management tools to optimise the cost of government’s borrowings.”

According to Devendra Kumar Pant, Chief Economist and Senior Director, Public Finance, India Ratings & Research: “Both industrial production and inflation trend suggests different monetary policy action.”

“Retail inflation breaching the MPC’s upper band of 6 per cent in seven out of last eight months makes task of the MPC difficult. India Ratings believes the MPC will watch inflation trajectory very carefully before taking a decision on further rate cuts.”

Brickwork ratings’ Chief Economic Advisor M. Govinda Rao said: “The spillovers of the hike in petrol prices are most likely to influence transportation costs adding to inflationary pressures going forward. We expect food inflation to soften in the coming months with easing supply constraints and better monsoon so far.”

“However, the core inflation at 5.5 per cent is a cause of concern, and it may remain at elevated levels as the demand picks up, but capacity utilisation does not increase commensurately.”

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PM Modi unveils ‘transparent taxation’, Rights’ Charter for taxpayers

The Income Tax department will adopt a ‘taxpayer charter’ which outlines rights and responsibilities of both tax officers and taxpayers.

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Narendra Modi

New Delhi, Aug 13 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched the ‘transparent taxation’ platform, which brings into effect faceless assessment of taxpayers, and the Rights’ Charter for the taxpayers.

Also the Income Tax department will adopt a ‘taxpayer charter’ which outlines rights and responsibilities of both tax officers and taxpayers.

Launching the platform ‘Transparent Taxation – Honoring the Honest’, Modi said the department will start faceless appeals from September 25.

“Effort is to make tax system seamless, painless and faceless… Honest taxpayer plays an important role in nation development,” he said.

Asking people to pay taxes due to them, Modi said while it is the responsibility of tax officers to deal with taxpayers with dignity, people should also consider paying taxes as their responsibility.

Fundamental reforms were needed in Indian tax system, he said, adding India is among the nations with lowest corporate tax rates.

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Business

Gold, silver prices now collapse after record run

Futures of silver, which surged to record levels after crossing Rs 70,000 per kilogram mark, have declined below the Rs 66,000 mark.

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Mumbai, Aug 12 : Futures of gold and silver which were touching new highs every other day lately have started to falter in line with international markets and traders booking profits.

The fall in gold prices, which is considered as a safe haven asset, has also been induced post Russia’s announcement that it has developed the first vaccine for novel coronavirus.

Gold futures slumped for the second straight day on Wednesday. Currently, the October contract of gold on the Multi-Commodity Exchange (MCX) is trading at Rs 51,672 per 10 gram, lower by Rs 257 or 0.49 per cent from its previous close.

It has, however, recovered from the day’s low of Rs 49,955 per 10 gram.

The slump was in line with the international spot prices where gold prices fell as US bond yields advanced and the dollar recovered.

Analysts, however, are of the view that the sentiments in the bullion market are still bullish and the yellow metal would soon be back on the upward trend.

Futures of silver, which surged to record levels after crossing Rs 70,000 per kilogram mark, have declined below the Rs 66,000 mark.

The September contract of silver is trading at Rs 65,758 per kg, lower by Rs 1,176, or 1.76 per cent from its previous close.

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