Since the Union government announced considerable lockdown relaxations in all zones beginning today (May 4), a nagging question for city folk has been whether their domestic helps and car cleaners will be allowed.
Even though media reports have suggested there is a go-ahead from the Centre, an impression has been created that RWAs will be the final authority in deciding whether these service providers can cross the colony/society gate.
Has the Centre or state governments given such powers to RWAs? Can domestic workers freely come to your home now? We will answer these questions here.
Has Centre allowed the services of domestic help and car cleaners?
Yes. Barring containment zones where any public movement except for emergencies is strictly prohibited, services of self-employed people providing services such as house help, car cleaning, sanitation, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry etc. are permitted.
So even in big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and the like, which are all in Red Zones, domestic help and car cleaners are allowed.
Do the Centre’s guidelines specifically mention this?
It must be reiterated that the Centre’s guidelines should be read for what is prohibited. All that is not prohibited, is permitted. Even the language of the guidelines is in that nature. They repeatedly say that such-and-such activity is prohibited, and all else is permitted.
The national guidelines issued by The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have made it clear that there would be free movement of people in all zones, barring containment zones, between 7 am and 7 pm. However, public transport for this movement would not ply in the Red and Orange Zones.
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Remember, in a lot of cities and neighbourhoods, domestic workers could not come earlier because there was a ban on public movement.
However, states can still issue orders to restrict public movement, and not allow service providers to come. They have the powers to ignore the Centre’s suggested relaxations under the Disaster Management Act.
So what role has been specified for RWAs in this matter?
None. The Centre’s guidelines do not even have the word “RWAs” anywhere in the entire document.
“It is not for RWAs to decide the contours of the lockdown. That power is only vested with the Centre and the states. The MHA has not vested any power in RWAs to decide on the matter. The Centre has no issues with services of domestic workers or any other service provider,” a Home Ministry official said.
Neither do the states have any problems, it appears.
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A statement by the Delhi government on state-specific guidelines said: “Services provided by self-employed persons (e.g. electrician, plumber, lift technician, A/C mechanic, vehicle mechanic, generator mechanic, TV mechanic, Dish TV/ Cable/ CCTV mechanic, Computer & Internet service provider, opticians, private security guards/ supervisors, gas service/ CNG pipeline technicians, sanitation workers, domestic helps/ maids, laundry/ press-wala etc.) are permitted except for barbers etc., as mentioned earlier.”
In the entire guidelines issued by the Delhi government too, there is no mention of RWAs — even though it has been specifically mentioned that the services of domestic helps will be allowed.
So how did this impression arise that RWAs have a role?
It was due to an erroneous briefing done by a Home Ministry official on Friday. It was this official who also created the confusion on whether liquor stores would open in Red Zones.
This official said that RWAs will decide on whether domestic helps can resume services, and that liquor stores would not open in Red Zones. This was promptly reported by a large section of the media.
However, both the claims were proven to be a misinterpretation of the guidelines. Senior officials involved with the drafting of the latest guidelines have now clarified that this was not the case.
It is also evident from the long queues in Delhi, a Red Zone, outside liquor stores today.
Therefore, RWAs cannot stop your domestic helps from coming in?
No, not with any legal sanctity. But if they want to, they may do so — just as they take a call on various activities to be allowed or not allowed in a housing society.
Society bylaws do provide the power to RWAs and cooperative housing societies to decide how they must organise and regulate their residential clusters.
This is why certain societies allow dogs, and some do not. Some allow them to use the elevators, others do not. Some allow your relative’s or friend’s or guest’s car in, some don’t.
In practical terms, the issue of domestic help would have to be sorted out between residents and office bearers of the society keeping in mind the safety and comfort of all.
And if your society does allow their services, do not forget to take all precautions suggested by the government to ensure their and your safety.
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