TIRUCHY: Dhobhis who iron clothes at every street corner are mostly seen as members of the families living in a particular area. But with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, all that can be seen are their pushcarts as the dhobis are now unable to earn a living. Most dhobis of Tiruchy city live in Vannarapettai near Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital. Around 200 dhobis and their families face an uncertain future as the lockdown has snatched away from their livelihoods.
N Paneerselvam, a dhobi, said "I earn a minimum of Rs.300 and a maximum of Rs.700 a day ironing at Gandhi Adigal Street in Tennur. On one day of the lockdown, I set out with my pushcart and iron to work, but found no takers for my services. As most people are staying home, I returned empty-handed." S Latha, a resident of Vannarapettai, said the government provided Rs 1,000 per ration card but she spent the money on cooking gas. "Now I have no work and no money. I need a minimum of Rs.100 per day to buy vegetables and milk for my children. We know nothing but ironing. Even if a few of us want to venture out on to the main road hoping for customers, police are seizing our carts and chasing us away," she said.
Dhobis in Vannarapettai share facilities like washing stones, tanks and water to wash clothes and dry them. Those who clean clothes only have bed linen and other items from private hospitals to wash. Kumar, a dhobi, said "In this common area, 30 dhobis work with their families. They collect clothes from hostels, hotels, hospitals and individual houses across the city and wash them here. Now, almost all of us are jobless. We are getting clothes only from hospitals. Our livelihood is badly affected. We are unable to buy snacks for our children." The dhobis demanded the district administration and State government to consider their plight and extend a helping hand so they can survive in the lockdown.