Post Mortem

Plight of domestic workers in Dimapur

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/6/2020 1:04:56 PM IST

 A domestic worker is a person who is involved in work like cleaning, washing, cooking, taking care of children, etc. They play an important role in the well-being of the family, There are approximately 4.2 million domestic workers in India. They remain part of an informal and unregulated sector, obscured in private homes, not recognized as workers but rather as “Informal Help” Out of this population, women constitute about two-thirds of the workforce in this unorganized  sector. 

The problems faced by the domestic workers: The nature of work of the domestic workers is not recognized as work by the state, General Public and also many of the employers. Their work of cooking, cleaning, dishwashing, babysitting, etc doesn’t verify the definition of organized work. Apart from this, poor bargaining powers with no provision for weekly holidays, maternity leave and health benefits, sexual harassment, caste discrimination and much more has only filled the bucket of sorrow of the domestic workers.

Role to be played by the government: Increasing cases of sexual harassment, overwork, acquisition of theft etc, has only jeopardized the workplace of domestic workers. The law should ensure the Right to life (Article 21), right to equality (article 14) and right to the freedom of domestic workers. India by far has only two laws for domestic workers: The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act 2008(UWSSA) and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013. But seeing the increasing number of issues and challenges of domestic workers, these two laws are meagre. India should ratify the ILO’s 189th convention known as the ‘convention of domestic workers’.

The state should amend the existing labour laws to ensure domestic workers enjoy all the labour rights other workers do. Include them in the schedule of employment. How long to wait for their recognition in the state. Every household has a Domestic worker then why so delay in giving their dignity and recognition. Policymakers should also deliberate on bringing proper legislation that aims to improve social and economic conditions of  people involved in this informal and unorganized work.

Role of the society at large: The society too needs to change their behavioral aspects and habitual negligence towards domestic workers. Sympathy and empathy should be there for this vulnerable section of society.

Working for their Rights and empowerment through skill training I have seen domestic workers take so much pride in their work and love the children they care for.” Their office is their employer’s home. Treat them as workers not as helper or the slave.

Let us show them the reciprocity of love and care that they show us through their work, feel the dignity of work they do for their living. If we cannot bring the change single-handedly, at least be the catalyst to change.

Covid -19 has brought fear among the domestic workers because no work for many days, salary is not paid, they are not taken care of, they were not helped, when many of the employers have asked to stop reporting to work ever since they started taking the risk of the covid 19 spread .the issue of whether the forced holiday is going to affect their pay is also playing on the minds of the domestic workers. Let us not forget the employers, who have shown their love during the pandemic, when the domestic workers expressed their difficulties, the employers have taken risk to help them. I salute those employers. If all the employers could show such love and recognize their services for our homes I think there is no need of any law.

 Therefore we urge the employers to give what belongs to them that is paid leave. To include them in the food relief. If we see here in Nagaland specially Dimapur there many domestic workers who are migrated. We ask the State Government to request the employers not to cut their pay which is the only income to sustain their family. Let be considerate in recognizing their services for our homes, I am sure we have realized how difficult it is to maintain the homes without their presence. Because when we go out for our work they are the one who manage everything. Therefore let us show our extra love and recognize them as workers and pay what is belong to them expressed Sr. Pramila Lobo UFS , State Coordinator NDWM- Nagaland Region 

In Dimapur, domestic workers are reduced to helpless dependence on the goodwill of their employers, some who might pay salaries for work not done and some who might refuse due to their absence to work during the lockdown period. Many domestic workers in Dimapur are just abandoned by their employers in the hour of crisis, asking them not to come to their houses for work resulting in loss of work and income, denied full payment for March and not even bothering to pay them for the month of April. Most of the domestic workers in Dimapur are laid off by their employers due to covid-19, thereby they are left with no means to earn their livelihood as many of them don’t even know where to go. One domestic worker said, ‘No one has asked me to come back for work. I am without any work for over 40 days now. 

I did call the employer to check whether we can resume our work after 3rd May, but most denied citing ‘social distancing’, resulting in loss of work and income. ‘These experiences during lockdown indicate aggravated forms of injustices and disregard towards domestic workers in Nagaland. A systemic denial to recognize domestic workers as ‘workers’ in the Schedule of Employment of the Minimum Wages Act by the Govt. of Nagaland has always left them at the mercy of the employer. 

Adv. Limanochet, Legal Advisor ANDWU

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