COVID, lockdown affect livelihood of domestic workers in Kerala

Domestic workers stage an online protest on Wednesday, demanding steps to save them from poverty as their livelihood is affected by the COVID-19-induced lockdown.   | Photo Credit: TH

The second wave of COVID-19 has thrown the life of Rukhiya, a domestic help, from Puthu Vypeen here, out of gear.

The 63-year-old woman, who has been rendered jobless since the COVID-induced lockdown, is surviving solely on the food kit being provided by the State government. Besides fending for herself, the elderly woman needs to take care of her ailing husband.

“I used to earn ₹400 a day working as a domestic help at a house in Elamakkara, Kochi. I could not go for work since the lockdown and is living in abject poverty,” she said. “The repayment of loans, including one from a micro-finance institution, is long overdue. There is pressure from the banks to repay the loans,” she said.

Driven out of their workplaces and pestered by moneylenders, scores of domestic helps across the State are languishing in misery. Though the State government had permitted the domestic helps to go to work during the lockdown period after collecting e-passes, it has not helped these workers of the unorgainised sector.

“The lockdown has affected the lives of domestic helps and a large number of them are surviving on the food kits being supplied by the State government,” says Sonia George, State secretary of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).

It is quite difficult for the women workers, who are mostly semi-literate or illiterate, to obtain the e-passes. Even if they manage to obtain them, they are unable to reach the houses where they work in the absence of public transport system, she said.

Online protest

It is estimated that around 75% of the nearly six lakh domestic helps have been rendered jobless since the lockdown. The workers staged an online protest on Wednesday demanding steps to save them from poverty.

“Almost all the workers in the sector, who have raised loans from banks, private moneylenders, micro-financing institutions and Kudumbasree units, are now in debt trap,” said Ms. George.

“Though unable to reach for work, my employer helped me during the lean days. I used to repay the loans on a weekly basis. Each month I need around ₹7,000 for repayment of loan, which I am finding it difficult now,” said Ms. Rukhia.

SEWA has demanded financial support for the workers besides priority vaccination so that they can get back to work at the earliest. The financial institutions shall write-off the interest component of the loan for the lockdown period. The government shall resume rural and urban employment guarantee schemes to support the workers, the association demanded.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 7:00:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/covid-lockdown-affect-livelihood-of-domestic-workers-in-kerala/article34706230.ece

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