House helps left without help amid pandemic

House helps residing in Sudhamapuri jhuggis.   | Photo Credit: Hemani Bhandari

Eight-month pregnant Sangeeta, a domestic help, resumed work at her employer’s house a week ago, but two days after her services were used, she was asked to not come back. The employer did not even ask if she needed any help with her pregnancy — monetarily or otherwise.

The Hindu spoke to seven house helps residing in the jhuggis is west Delhi’s Sudhamapuri and all of them said their employers had treated them harshly at a time when they desperately needed their help. Despite the Delhi government allowing domestic helps to start working again, the employers were not ready to use their services or pay them their dues.

Sangeeta said she worked in four houses in Moti Nagar and three of them asked her not to come immediately and that they will let her know when she can join work later. The fourth employer left her the most disappointed. “I had to ask for work even in full pregnancy because we don’t have money. When I went to the house she agreed to let me work but two days later, she told me not to come. She didn’t even pay for the two days,” said Sangeeta.

‘Not allowed to enter’

Seema, 40, who works in seven houses along with her daughter, said she went asking for work to each house at least thrice. “I asked one of them for my dues for March. She didn’t even open the door, just put the money in a polythene bag and threw it at me,” she said.

Kajal, 25, who works in five houses and has two minor boys, said when she called her employer, the woman was mocked at her saying, “I am poorer than you”. Kajal said when she “literally begged” for money, she was told by one of the employers, “Why don’t you eat langar or go to hunger relief centres?” When she replied that the rice given at those centres is not properly cooked, she was allegedly told, “Bring the food home and boil it.”

“These are the same women who asked us to knead the dough and make chapatis for them. Today, they are treating us like we don’t exist. They don’t care about us, our children,” she said.

Sharing her experience, Gudiya, 35, said she went to her employer’s house four days ago and was turned away. “I pleaded with her to let me come and work. She asked me to leave and call her on phone. She is not answering the phone now.”

‘Can’t refill cylinder’

Anjani, 38, who has five children, Santosh, 40, who has two, and Roshni, 22, who has a one-year-old son, shared similar experiences of being turned away by their employers. They said they are managing with bare minimum for over two months now. Santosh said she has no money to refill her LPG cylinder. “We are now using stoves which are ignited using wood. Who can afford to buy cylinders worth ₹500-₹600 in these times?” she asked.

Anjani said though they are getting ration from the shops after showing the card, there are expenses over and above that. “Even milk and vegetables are difficult to buy. We eat vegetables in one meal, and only chapatis and salt in the other,” she said.

Roshni said her son was asking for ice cream since morning. “I slapped him and shut him up. He won’t understand that I don’t have money.”

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:46:12 PM |

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