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Govt to probe Cos providing domestic help

Around 700,000 women and girls from poor families have been recruited by placement agencies to work in affluent Delhi homes.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2006 10:22 IST

The Delhi government is to probe the working of companies that have provided tens of thousands of female domestic help to homes in the national capital amid complaints that many are exploiting the women.

Delhi's Labour Minister Mangat Ram Singhal says it is time the placement agencies came under the official scanner. Some workers say they are paid poorly, but there are others who claim the agencies are providing a better life.

Around 700,000 women and girls from poor families have been recruited by placement agencies to work in affluent Delhi homes for meagre salaries, say officials preparing to regulate the firms.

"We did not have much idea about this kind of trafficking earlier. It was only a few months ago that we learnt about the situation when a team of experts went to Jharkhand to attend a human rights programme," the labour minister said.

"We believe that around 700,000 people have been brought to Delhi for employment through these agencies," he said.

According to the minister, most agencies have no proper documents and some could also be recruiting children for work, which is illegal. The government plans to conduct a survey to probe how the placement agencies are being run.

Middlemen woo women and girls from many states, especially Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Jharkhand, through agents scouting villages. Until they find a house to work in, the women are treated inhumanly by some placement agencies, say officials in Delhi's labour department.

The number of such young women brought to the capital is reportedly increasing. The Delhi government has decided to take the help of NGOs to track down such women and girls, some under 14 years of age, and coordinate with their home states in a bid to send them back home if necessary.

On Oct 10, the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986, came into effect, banning children below 14 years from being employed as household help and in dhabas  (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas or other recreational centres.

Joint labour commissioner Piyush Sharma said: "We think that such activities are a form of trafficking and it should be stopped."

"Due to the lack of development in their states, the women are brought to Delhi to work. Agents promise them a better life in Delhi. But once they are here, they are subjected to inhuman treatment and not given enough to eat," he added.

The monthly income of the women is collected by the agency bringing them to Delhi, Sharma alleged. "The monthly income varies from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 depending on their age and skills in household work," he said.

The Delhi government is in contact with the respective state governments and has requested them to help put a stop to this kind of trafficking, he said.

"The state governments have assured us that when any of the women are rescued, they will help us send them back to their villages," he added.

Some owners mete out harsh treatment to the women and girls, admit workers of some of the placement agencies.

GS Singh of Anand Foundation, which also provides domestic help to over 150 homes in the capital, said: "Most of these organisations are not registered with the government. So there is no monitoring of their activities. We have come to know about the Delhi government's decision to register all agencies."