The closure of fitness centres has left many unemployed and affected the livelihoods of a large number of families.
Anjali Jayaraj | October 12, 2020
Mumbai: Gym owners and fitness enthusiasts are losing hope as Unlock 5 does not permit the reopening of gyms in Maharashtra. Gym trainers are waiting for the government’s decision on the reopening of gyms and many gym owners have taken loans and are under debt.
Mr. Balaji Ramesh Sonandkar, owner of Alpha fitness gym in Navi Mumbai says, ‘’My gym is closed since March 14. It’s been seven months but the government has still not given us permission. I can find rust and fungus on my equipment. It has become difficult for me to maintain the gym during the lockdown. Rats have destroyed my AC and mirrors are also in bad condition. I have spent Rs three lakh for the maintenance of my gym.”
This has affected many families as well. As the government claims that gyms in the state are shut for good, business owners slam the government for allowing cinema halls and bars to open.
Mr. Sahil Hala, a gym trainer and manager at 9th gear, a fitness club in Mulund, says ‘’We have not opened the gym in the last six months. It is definitely not easy for us to run our business until the state government gives permission to restart operations. Some of our employees have started online fitness classes but it is hard to get clients because some people get conscious of online classes. The government opened up liquor shops, was that morally right? They did not pay much attention to the fitness industry. A good gym can survive for one or two months in the market. Rest of the gyms are under debt.’’
‘’The Covid-19 induced lockdown has affected other industries along with the fitness industry. With larger, corporate fitness centers entering the market, it is hard for small gyms to sustain or compete with them in the industry. We are ready to adhere to the guidelines, why can’t the government re-open gyms? So many gym owners and employees are contemplating suicide, who is responsible for it?” he adds.
“It is hard for me to look after my monthly expenses after I lost my job. Trainers are anyway not paid well in India. It has become difficult for trainers to look after their families. My friends who work as gym trainers are now working for Zomato and Swiggy,” says Mr. Tejas Gaikwad, a professional bodybuilder and personal fitness trainer at 9th gear fitness club.
Mr. Nishant Nadar another bodybuilder and a freelance trainer says,” I work in a bank now and I know what gym owners in the state are going through. The government is giving more and more loans to the owners which will only create more problems for them in the future. The fitness industry is large and the business has been hit and may take a while to get back to normal.’’
Another gym owner from the city Mr. Mari Shanmu of Slim and Tone gym in Chembur says, “We have been suffering a lot from the last few months. The financial losses have put me and my staff in a difficult situation. I have not paid the rent. We can’t blame the government also, they are doing their job. Members need to take necessary precautions when gyms reopen. Even if we get to allow a few clients according to the slots allotted to them, it will help us survive during the lockdown. We can’t risk our business.”
“I can’t give compensation to members who have already paid one-year membership or else I will be in loss, I can extend their membership. I request the government to give an order to restart operations as soon as possible,” he further adds.
After a few gym owners staged a silent protest in June, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked gym owners to frame standard operating procedures (SOPs) on August 28.
The Maharashtra government on September 30th of September issued new guidelines to control the spread of covid-19 in the state as a part of Mission Begin Again and extended the lockdown till October 31 and in its new guidelines mentioned that the gyms will remain closed until further notice from them.
A few gyms were shut down for operating against the government’s rule in Mira Bhayandar and Virar-Vasai areas. After the incident some gym owners met MP Supriya Sule and discussed their problems with her. She has promised them that she will talk to Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray about this issue.
A few gym owners and trainers have decided to stage a protest at Taljai hill, Pune. They will step out for a morning walk to individually protest against the state government. Meanwhile, Mumbai gym owners met Maharashtra governor, Bhagat Singh Koshyari on October 7 seeking permission to reopen gyms.