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COVID-19 effect: Karnataka government says ok, but domestic helps still out of work

Some say that despite calling their employers and asking if they should start coming in to work, they have been turned down.

Published: 04th May 2020 02:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th May 2020 05:39 AM   |  A+A-

A family taking break sat therpad side in Bengaluru on Sunday. (Photo | Pandarinath B/EPS)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Though the government has given a heads-up to domestic workers going back to work, many tell TNIE that they are yet to hear back from their employers, and are struggling to make ends meet since March.

Some say that despite calling their employers and asking if they should start coming in to work, they have been turned down. The government, however, has left the decision to resident welfare associations in containment zones.

Gangamma, a domestic help who is
currently out of work, struggles to
make ends meet | Meghana sastry

Nirmala, a domestic worker who stays in Vivekananda Colony and used to work in a house in JP Nagar, said, “On March 22, I was told not to come to work. For cooking and cleaning the house, I was paid Rs 7,000 a month. I wasn’t even paid my March salary. I’m a single mother with two children — we don’t have food to eat. I have been borrowing money from others and getting ration. On Saturday, I called to ask if I can resume work, but they told me not to come back. We’re also scared of leaving our homes, but we need money, so there’s no choice.”

Varamahalakshmi, another domestic help working in several houses in Richmond Town, said she has not got paid for the last two months.

“We are surviving on porridge every day. My son was working at a gym, but he was laid off.”

For Ratna, who works in Sarjapur, the scenario is slightly different. While she was called in to work, her salary has been cut in half, making meeting daily needs difficult. 

Harini Raghavan, co-founder of consultancy firm Multiversal Advisory, has started a petition partnering with campaigning organisation Jhatkaa.org to reach out to the state labour minister and come up with an advisory.

“It’s about time domestic helps have access to basic rights, such as wages and job security. There should be an escalation point within the system. This is especially relevant now during the pandemic,” she said.

Manjushree C, a campaigner at Jhatkaa.org, said, “We want the government to mandate that employers pay domestic workers. They also have families and need money to run their homes.” 

Meanwhile, Captain Mannivannan, secretary, Labour Department, said that the government has no problem with domestic helps to resume work, but finally, it’s up to the resident associations and the workers themselves to decide.  

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