Lockdown 3.0 (Photo Credit: File Photo)
Babita Rai, a 35-year-old domestic help from Zamrudpur in south Delhi, has been without work for over 40 days now. With her depleted savings and an additional loan of Rs 20,000 coming to an end, Babita and her husband are uncertain about their future even as the country readies to get some relaxation from the ongoing lockdown.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had issued new guidelines on Friday to ease some of the restrictions on essential and non-essential services during the third phase of the lockdown, which starts from Monday.
While the ministry asked the resident welfare associations (RWAs) to take a call regarding allowing the movement of outsiders, several house helps were either told to not come or are not aware about the RWAs' decisions.
"No one has asked me to come back for work. I am without any work for over 40 days now. I did call them to check whether we can resume our work, while most denied one family, who are putting up on rent, said the owners of the house are not allowing them,Rai told PTI.
Before the lockdown came into effect on March 24, Babita was working in three houses in Greater Kailash, earning anything between Rs 6,000 - 10,000 per month. Another worker, Rekha from Vasundhara, Ghaziabad, is afraid to step out fearing the police may reprimand her and has not heard about any RWA decision in this regard.
There is no work and whatever money I had saved is almost gone. I do not know if societies may allow us to work from tomorrow. I do not know how we will survive if we do not go back to work, she said. Rekha had returned to Ghaziabad from her daughter's wedding in Bihar just in time before the lockdown restricted inter-state movement.
Not just domestic helps, but home-makers are also in the dark as they await to hear from their RWA secretaries. We were told that there will be an RWA meeting today about allowing maids to come in, but we have not heard anything so far. While it would be of great help if they are allowed, we will still have to be careful, said Aniket Sharma, a resident of a gated society in Ghaziabad.The movement restriction has hit the lower income class groups hard as another domestic worker Pinky from Noida sector 39 rued that the lockdown has rendered her jobless and her family hungry.
All my employers had told me that they would call when they wanted me to come to work, but I have not heard from anyone yet. Running the household has become extremely difficult. We are eating one meal a day because I have not got my salary for the last two months, Pinky said. The confusion over permission to domestic workers has not spared the RWAs either.
Nivedita Upadhyay, a home-maker from Greater Noida, was told by the Resident Welfare Association of her area that they are awaiting instructions from the state government. The RWA has told us that they are awaiting guidelines from the state regarding the relaxation. Our society had restricted the entry of maids, drivers, newspaper vendors etc from March 25 itself. Besides, allowing maids to work here is risky since most of the domestic help comes from Aicher village, which of late has recorded a lot of COVID-19 positive cases, she said.
On the other side, Anindyo Sengupta, a homeowner from Gurgaon, was relieved to know that her domestic help can resume work, but only after briefing her on all precautionary measures. I am actually quite relieved that she will be returning. My husband and I had shared the workload, but it was getting very difficult to manage the household without her. Since my mother lives with us, I have briefed her on all precautionary measures like keeping her nose and mouth covered, and washing hands and feet before getting started, Sengupta said.