Cinema halls and multiplexes have reopened after eight months but business is slow due to a number of factors like lack of new Hindi film releases and fear among the people regarding sitting in an enclosed areas with others amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the low paying workers associated with cinema halls and multiplexes, have been directly hit.
For some, there has been a pay cut since the lockdown happened. Many others have just lost their jobs and are waiting for new opportunities. Many of these workers are migrants in the big city, and the sole bread winners of their families.
Himanshu Kumar from Bihar’s Saran, who has been working at a multiplex in Bengaluru as an electrician for two years, had his payment reduced to 40 per cent during the lockdown and is still not getting his due.
Talking about the same, Himanshu told IANS: “Although the multiplex was shut during lockdown, the CCTV cameras and fire extinguishers were on. I had to go and check these once in every 10 days. During lockdown, I was getting 40 per cent of my total pay, which has slightly increased in November, but I am still not getting my full payment.”
The migrant worker further informed that he is looking for a job with better pay options because he has to take care of his mother, elder brother and sister-in-law back in his hometown. “I will continue for two to three months more and then look for better payment options,” Himanshu informed.
Arijit Shil used to work as a security guard at a multiplex in Madhyamgram in the outskirts of Kolkata, but he lost his job after theatres shut down.
“I have worked as a security guard in the multiplex for over a year. When lockdown began, the theatre was shut, so we were out of work for four months. When the theatre reopened after lockdown, they retained only around six people who have been associated with the multiplex from the beginning. I have been told that my services will be required only when the theatre starts getting footfalls,” he said.
Arijit’s wife, a homemaker, has taken up a job to support her husband because he is no longer getting the monthly paycheque of Rs 10,000 that he used to earn from his job as a security guard.
He added: “I sat at home for the four months of lockdown. Then I worked at the packaging department of a herbal products company for two months on a contractual basis. Now, I am again looking for work. I called up my agency today asking them for work as I desperately need money. Meanwhile, my wife, who was a homemaker has started working at a garments manufacturing unit to help run our household.”
Arijit and Himanshu represent the countless number of workers from different parts of the country associated with cinema halls and multiplexes, who have a similar story to tell. While cinema hall and multiplex owners wait for the audience to turn up, workers at these properties are busy figuring out how to earn their bread. The coronavirus pandemic has affected them too, but in a different way.