The coronavirus pandemic has led to a shift in preferences for home care and domestic help across the city of Ahmedabad. The demand for 24×7 domestic help and 24×7 home care services — for children and the elderly — has increased manifold. Daily commute by the employees is not preferred; in fact, it has been put on hold for most until June.
Among other conditions for domestic employees resuming work are mandatory Covid-19 tests and inquiries about their accomodations, so to ensure they are not residents of red zones in the city.
Mittal Shah, Managing Director of SEWA Federation — a collective of 106 co-operatives, one of which is a home care co-operative of 100 women — said that in view of the prevailing uncertainty, details are being chalked out for the coming six months, keeping in mind the worst case scenario.
“Since 80% of these women (co-operative employees) come from red zones and employers are inquiring about their backgrounds, it is going to be tough,” Shah said. At present, only 12 out of 100 women are working 24×7 and living at their employers’ residences. “This demand is witnessing a high increase,” she added.
However, this shift in demand is unlikely to be matched by all employees. “I was taking care of an old, bed-ridden woman for the last two years… I have been told that they are now seeking 24×7 help, but I cannot do that as my family does not approve of it,” said 52-year-old Lilaben Khetaliya, a resident of Gita Mandir area in the old city.
“Many residential societies have passed a resolution that domestic helps who commute daily will not be allowed inside their building. This is not happening immediately, as employers are postponing resuming services until June. But even those staying in independent houses are not ready to call them back,” said Chinmayiben Desai of Saath, which employs 200 women in child care, old age care, patient care and domestic help.
Maniben Gigaiya (50), a resident of Behrampura — one of the ten containment zones in the city — has been working in elderly care for the past nine years. “I have been sitting at home for the last two months, without any salary. I was taking care of an old lady living alone in Shyamal area… So far, there has been no communication regarding when I can join back,” she said.
“There is no hope of the situation getting better for another month. As these women are majorly from slum areas, society committees have denied their entry till June. This could be further extended, depending on how the situation unfolds in Ahmedabad,” said Kokilaben Solanki from Mansi Mahila Sewa Sakhi Mandal in Vasna area.
“Employers are requesting for tests… who will get these tests conducted? We have made it clear (to our employees) that since it is a mandatory condition expressed by employers… they have to bear the costs,” said Bhartiben Parmar, co-ordinator of the SEWA home care co-operative.
While many of these women are from the city, several of them have returned to their native places — either villages in Gujarat or other states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. While most of them were paid salaries for the month of March, fewer were paid for the month of April and there is hardly any reassurance for May.
“We are seeking financial support from corporates, individuals, donors and also from the government… When medium and small scale enterprises are being supported, then why aren’t the micro ones, like co-operatives?” said Shah.
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