Surge in number of women migrating from other districts to Madurai

When C. Dhivya, a native of Tiruchi, got a job in a public sector company based in Madurai six months ago, she chose the cyber route to check out a decent and a safe lodging. Lured by a website of the hostel which had a gallery of posh rooms, she landed in Madurai hoping to get an accommodation there.

“I was shocked to see there was no semblance between the pictures on the hostel’s website and the actual conditions of the rooms. The hostel looked more like a haunted house, whereas the website presented a posh picture of the hostel”, says Ms. Dhivya recalling her gruesome experience.

“I was even more shocked when they demanded a hefty fee. I then found an accommodation in a modest hostel that demanded Rs.5,500 for a twin-sharing room. But, the room was congested and I had to use a common rest room. I stayed there for three months before managing to find a decent hostel”, she adds.

“Most of the rooms offered in hostels are twin-sharing or shared by three and at times by more than four persons. Not all the rooms have attached bathrooms. The cost per month for the rooms depends on the type of accommodation you opt for and can be anything between Rs.3,500 and Rs.10,000,” she says.

With a boom in the industrial sector and ample work opportunities in the Temple City, there is a surge in the number of women migrating from other districts to Madurai in search of work. A number of working women’s hostels mushroomed in almost all the streets, but not all have adequate facilities, say the inmates.

“A very few hostels in the city have proper facilities. I had a tough time for nearly a year when I stayed at a hostel, where there was no kitchen. The inmates had to cook for themselves. The rooms and the restrooms were unclean. Thankfully, I now stay in a hostel which is hygienic and has a proper mess”, says V.T. Deepa Mary, associate professor at Fatima College.

“The concept of paying guests though famous in cities like Chennai has not caught up in Madurai. If this form accommodation takes root in the city it will be helpful for the working women,” she adds.

R. Anu, a call centre employee, faced a laborious task before finding a hostel in Madurai, which suited her profession.

“Almost all the hostels in Madurai impose conditions that require the inmates to be back in their rooms by 9.00 p.m. I had a very difficult time before locating a hostel in K.K. Nagar that permitted me to come back by 1 a.m.,” she says.

An administrator of a working woman’s hostel that has at least three branches in the city told The Hindu that they had reservations while admitting women, whose working hours stretched beyond 9 p.m. “We have economy rooms shared by four people, twin-sharing rooms and individual rooms. In order to maintain a hygienic atmosphere, we prefer admitting people to the twin-sharing and individual rooms rather than admitting people to the economy rooms,” says S. Mani, the administrator.

“We prefer our inmates to be back to the hostel by 9 p.m. On exceptional occasions, like when they are held up at work occasionally or when they return from their homes, we give them permission till 10 p.m. When call centre employees come to us, we recommend the individual rooms to them, so that they do not disturb the inmates in the common rooms. The fee for individual rooms starts from Rs.10,000 and we provide air conditioners,” he adds.

Janet Sankar, a professor at Madurai Institute of Social Sciences and a board member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), says there are various aspects that need to be considered while running a hostel. “There are several hostels that exploit working women by extracting money. Some private hostels provide leniency in timings and relax other conditions, but only after extracting hefty sums from the inmates,” she says.

According to Ms.Janet, the district administration, the Social Welfare Department and the non-governmental organisations should step in periodically to monitor the hostels.

“Periodical monitoring is necessary to check whether the private hostels provide a hygienic atmosphere to the inmates, have installed adequate fire safety measures and provide nutritious food to the inmates. Most hostels have students and working women staying together and there is a difficult task at hand for the administrators to strike a balance between providing leniency and maintaining discipline,” she adds.

“Also care should be taken to ensure that the wardens of the hostels are qualified and literate. Otherwise, they may not understand the nature of work of the women and might approach them with a stigma which, in turn, will disturb the psychology of the inmates. Each hostel should have an advisory committee so that the hostels are run transparently,” she concludes.

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