A modest initiative to stitch cloth masks for the Pakistani Hindu migrant community here in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak has grown into an organised manufacturing facility employing over 70 women.
It has provided the women of the displaced community not just a sustainable means of livelihood but also a ray of hope at a time employment opportunities in the unorganised sectors have been severely hit due to the ongoing lockdown to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We had no idea that an urge to provide masks to our community members by our own women would one day turn out to be a sustainable means of livelihood for them,” said Hindu Singh Sodha, the secretary of the Universal Just Action Society (UJAS) which fights for the interests of the community.
Sodha said the initial plan was to stitch about 12,000 pieces of mask for the community members, but soon after demands started pouring in from medical stores, industries and some other sectors.
With the help of UJAS and community leaders, the modest initiative subsequently grew into an organised manufacturing facility.
A lot of efforts went into fixing the parameters of mask making with regard to its design, quality and size in adherence to the guidelines of the National Centre for Disease Control and the Government of India.
The women have been making good quality three-layerd elastic masks of cotton cloth. Sangeeta, one of the women, said that with the selling price of a mask fixed at Rs 10, “we are making Rs 4 a piece while Rs 6 is incurred on raw material and other cost”.
“This has helped us support our families at a time men in the families have been left distraught due to the lockdown and consequent job loss,” she said.
Sodha said plans are afoot to enhance production capacity and around 200 sewing machines have been distributed among the migrant households with support from donors.