There are about 18,000 workers – including 5,000 permanent and more than 7,000 temporary or contractual workers – in the industry in Sylhet
Nazikul Islam Bhuiyan, the owner of Symphony Sound System in Amberkhana area of Sylhet city, has to pay his shop's rent and electricity bills though his company has been shut for the last five months. As a result, he is set to lose all his capital.
"Small traders like us find it difficult to support a family when our businesses are closed day after day like this. Everything is slowly returning to normal and businesses are opening as well. However, our businesses have not started to do so yet. All kinds of events are closed now. Public gatherings are also prohibited. No one can say when they will restart, he said.
Such frustration is reflected in the voices of all the decorators, mike and sound system traders in Sylhet.
The traders are still running their businesses depending on their capital but the staff members of the industry do not have that opportunity. Most of them have already lost their jobs. The workers of this sector are living an inhumane life.
Arif Mia works at Surma Decorators in Kadamtali area of the city. His shop has been closed since March and he has not got his salary since April. He said different people cooperated in the beginning but not at present.
"There are no job opportunities anywhere else. Quite often I starve," he added.
According to two organisations of sound system owners in Sylhet, there are more than 200 mike and sound system companies in the district. Five thousand workers are directly and indirectly involved with all these organisations. Similarly, there are more than 400 decorators in the district. There are about 18,000 workers including 5,000 permanent and more than 7,000 temporary or contractual workers.
Business people concerned said various social, political, cultural and state events were their main sources of income. Such programmes have been closed since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. Although there are some social events they are in domestic environments. There are also restrictions on public gatherings. As a result, the demand for sound system workers and decorators is now almost zero.
Vibhas Shyam Jadan, the owner of Chalantika Decorators in Zindabazar area of Sylhet city, said most of the traders in our profession are on the verge of becoming destitute due to Covid-19 and no one knows when everything will return to normal.
He said 24 employees work at his company. It is difficult for him to bear the large expenses including their salaries, warehouse rent of Tk1.5 lakh and office rent. He has been supporting this for the last five months but it is no longer possible.
He thinks many businessmen will be destitute if the government helps the businessmen in this sector.
Nazikul Islam Bhuiyan, general secretary of the Sylhet Mike and Sound System Owners Welfare Association, said March and April are the best times their business with around Tk1.5 lakh turnover per month. Excluding all expenses, the profit is Tk70-75 thousand.
However, this time due to Covid-19, not a single penny was earned this season though the costs have remained the same, he added.
Babla Khan, the convener of the Sylhet District Decorators Owners Association, said, "We are all living inhumane lives. In the meantime, we have requested incentives or stimulus packages from various departments of the government, including the prime minister, but have not received the desired response.
Sajjad Mia, president of the South Surma Decorators and Sound System Owners Association in Sylhet, said, "Our raw materials and equipment in the warehouse are going to waste due to the long shutdown of the businesses. Some parts of the crockery material have already become unusable. Each organisation has to employ more than one employee for the maintenance and security of goods. When we can't stand it ourselves, how can we pay the employees' salaries and allowances?"
He said a memorandum has already been issued to the prime minister for incentives. However, no response has been received so far.