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From separate elevators to different exits — domestic helps working in massive condominiums in Noida and Gurgaon face segregation at many levels.
In Noida’s Mahagun Moderne society, for instance, there are separate exits and lifts for domestic helps. “The society is strict about the security of its residents. There is a separate exit, separate lift and different registers that track when they enter and exit the society,” said Dr Amit Gupta, a resident. Each domestic help is also given a name tag.
But domestic helps who work there alleged that what is passed off as ‘security’ is often dehumanising. “It doesn’t feel good to be forced to use the lift which residents don’t use. What is it about us that makes them not want to see us? But then, that is just the cost of doing the work we do and not being able to afford flats like these,” said Mohammad Shaafi, who works there.
Similarly in Gurgaon, most complexes have separate gates and lifts for domestic helps and other housekeeping staff such as gardeners, sweepers and drivers. “Different cutlery and different bathrooms for us are a trend everywhere, but a different entrance is something new — something we have heard of only in Gurgaon,” said Sunita, a resident of Harijan Colony who works as a domestic help in a condominium on Golf Course Road.
Another thing residents at both places are “surprisingly particular” about is money, said several domestic helps The Indian Express spoke to. Kalmina, a domestic help in Gurgaon, said, “The women in the societies set up their own ‘rate system’ that everyone has to follow. But the amount they set is very little for the work we do, and nobody gives us more than that because they do not want to upset their neighbours.” A lot of them also complained of not being paid on time.
Although several legislation, such as the Unorganised Social Security Act, 2008, notified in various states, make a mention of domestic workers, the United Nations noted that there remains an “absence of comprehensive, uniformly applicable, national legislation that guarantees fair terms of employment and decent working conditions”.