Domestic workers stare at uncertainty; await employers' call to begin work

While India is gradually gearing up to learn to live with coronavirus, a large number of domestic workers are helplessly waiting for a call which would finally ask them to resume work
Although there are relaxations in Covid-19 lockdown guidelines, the plight of domestic workers continue to be one fraught with anxiety, with most of them losing their jobs and an uncertain future ahead.

Since March, most domestic workers were instructed by employers not to come to work following lockdown. Many domestic helps in national capital say they have faced a 100 per cent salary cut while the luckier ones received half of their total salary.

Minu Naskar, 39, says only two of the five houses she worked in Noida are paying her full salary.

"Only two houses are paying me the same salary while two others have left for their home town and told me they will pay after coming back. I do not know when they will come back and what they do not understand is that I too have a family to look after and I also need to buy essentials," she said.

Minu's son is an e-rickshaw driver and since lockdown, he too had to sit back at home till restrictions on public transport were lifted since May 17.

Another domestic help from South Delhi's Sant Nagar Bimala Devi, 42 says, "three houses I work as a part-time domestic help have asked for my bank account details, but I do not have one, what shall I do? I know how I have spent days while queuing for at least four to five hours to avail free ration."

While a few individual households have opened their gates to domestic workers, many of the societies/ apartments/ localities are yet to stop being sceptical about them in reality.

One domestic help from Saket says, "I have called all the four houses I work for that I am a responsible citizen and will adhere to all the guidelines but please allow me to work. Only one has asked to me come and collect money. I do not even know if they will give me my full salary or deduct." She requested anonymity.

Prasenjit Maity who works as help in CR Park says: "A friend of mine used to work in Kalkaji and like all he was told not to come till restrictions were in place. Recently when he visited the house the owner asked him not to come. Unable to find another job at this crisis he left for his hometown in West Midnapur."

However, Maity confirmed he has not encountered any such issues with any of the households he works for.

Following the unprecedented condition, domestic help who work as part-timers are especially facing difficulty. Houses in posh localities areas perceive them to be the carriers of several infections/ virus due to their way of living.

"Stigmatising domestic help must stop. It is the time when people should stand by each other and not just search for opportunities to throw out the weaker ones, the vulnerable. Just like us, even they need the money and we must think in an empathetic manner," said Dr Ruby Makhija, Secretary, Navjiwan RWA, Navjeevan Vihar.

While India is gradually gearing up to learn to live with coronavirus, a large number of domestic workers are helplessly waiting for a call which would finally ask them to resume work.


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