In the third phase of the lockdown, more than one lakh domestic workers in Pune district now fear a permanent loss of their livelihood. Many housing societies have refused them entry point blank, with employers also deducting salaries. Pointing out the need of written directives from authorities, these women are demanding that the labour commissioner’s office step in to help them.
Domestic workers have been unable to come to work for the past 50 days or so, owing to the lockdown and subsequent stoppage of public transport. Civic bodies of both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad have relaxed the lockdown in many areas, but workers say they are still unable to go to work, as housing societies are reluctant to let them in. The bigger worry for these women is that many of their employers have decided to cut salaries for the days for which they have not worked.
This comes even as the Central and state governments have made repeated appeals against doing so. Pune Municipal Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad had clarified that housing societies should allow domestic workers if they are not coming from containment areas. However, Kiran Moghe, president of the domestic workers’ union, said that in the absence of any written orders from authorities, such directions have little value.
“Societies question the hygiene and health of women, forgetting how the present Covid-19 crisis has come from abroad, and how it has subsequently spread from the homes in which these women work,” she said.
Moghe also negated this argument that most women come from containment areas. “This is not true, as a vast majority of the women stay in areas which are not declared as containment zones,” she added.
Domestic workers, Moghe said, are also reluctant to pursue complaints of salary cuts, as it may lead to them losing their jobs. Rekha Kamble, treasurer of the union, said they have received regular complaints regarding this matter.
Both Kamble and Moghe said the Domestic Workers Welfare Board, which is supposed to take up the cause for these women, is as good as redundant. “We asked the board to give these women a stipend during this period, but nothing came of it,” they said.
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