BENGALURU: Domestic workers, who were badly affected by the Covid-induced lockdowns, gathered outside the Labour Commissioner’s office on Saturday stating that they had not been provided any kind of compensation. They also claimed that they had to deal with a regressive ration card policy and virtually no laws to ensure regular job benefits and security for them. They demanded designated paid leave, regular salaries, pensions, medical insurance and bonuses.
“We don’t get any holidays, we have to go whenever our employers call us. Whether we’re sick or have an emergency, we can’t decline work as they’ll dock our pay. If we take more than a day off, they’ll fire us,” Bharati Muniraju, one of the workers, told TNSE. Her sister Uma fills in if she isn’t able to come to work. “They don’t give paid leave. If I go in her place, I get paid for the day, said Uma.
Venkatamma had a wound on her hand. “I was still forced to work. I work from 8 am and get home only around 10 pm almost every day,” she said. Issues that the women highlighted were regarding smart ration cards as well as the need for laws to regulate placement agencies that hire young girls as domestic workers.
After the lockdown, the government restarted the ration card scheme where they added a BPL/PPH card criteria. “Ration cards issued under the APL card are completely useless, the way they calculate who’s eligible for BPL cards is ridiculous. If you own a small black and white TV that the government gave you, or you earn more than Rs 1 lakh a year, you’re above the poverty line and you’re ineligible for a smart ration card,” Geeta Menon, joint secretary of Domestic Workers Rights Union and founder of Stree Jagruti Samiti told TNSE.
“There are no laws to help unorganised workers. While we can’t monitor every individual household where they work, there is a need for laws,” Meena Patil, Assistant Labour Commissioner, Karnataka State Unorganised Workers Social Security Board told TNSE. While Labour Commissioner Ákram Pasha was unavailable to meet the workers, Meena announced that they will conduct a meeting in the first week of December to address the issues.