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Letting evil in

Letting evil in

india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 03:05 IST

His excuse is the abusive behaviour of his employers. Nineteen-year-old Sikander, a domestic help employed in Karol Bagh, claims his employers used to lock him up inside the servant quarters at night.

He says he felt humiliated, this humiliation turned into rage and he battered the elderly couple he worked for with an iron pipe.

Devraj Grover and his wife Vimla aren't the only ones to face murderous assault from their domestic help.

Whether it is kidnapping, murder, theft or robbery, the complicity of servants in the crime is a cold fact of urban living.

According to police records, 60 per cent of indoor crime happens with servant involvement. Many times, as in the case of the Grovers, the task of the investigators is made tougher in the absence of reliable verification.

According to police estimates, about 80 per cent of the domestic help in the Capital comes from outside the city, from states like Jharkhand, Bihar, and West Bengal.

In many cases the servants may not have committed the crime themselves but have supplied vital information to the criminals.

In the sensational double murder of advocates Swarna Mahajan and her daughter Anuratha at their Siddhartha Enclave flat in March this year, it was the neighbour's servant Bhaskar Mahaluick who conspired with three others to decamp with cash and jewellery. The neighbour had not bothered to get the servant's antecedents verified.

In another case of servant complicity, a senior manager with a multinational bank living at Greater Kailash was won over by the character certificate his in-laws gave to a security guard called Ganesh Mukhiya.

Having gained the manager's trust and the keys to the house, he got a pair of duplicate keys made and hatched a plan for robbery. But he was arrested before he could implement his plan.

Despite regular appeals from the police and a spate of gruesome murders involving domestic helps, the process of servant verification hasn't picked up pace. “Servant verification is a proactive process.

The police can't knock on every door and ask people to get their servant verified. The residents themselves have to come forward,” said Delhi Police chief spokesperson, Deepender Pathak.

Agents of peril

The tardy pace of verification has also brought the over 2,000 placement agencies across the Capital under the scanner. On their part, the agencies claim that they take exhaustive safety precautions including verification.

Says Satyajit Paul, who has been running the Kaka Domestic Servant Agency in Malviya Nagar for the past five years, “Our profession has been disgraced by a few bad characters that operate illegally. They employ anyone walking up to them without inquiring into their background. So much so, that some are even operating a flesh trade in the garb of placement.”

But Paul gives himself a clean chit. “We don't deal in male servants as they are relatively more risky. We verify the antecedents of our maids and make sure that the client gets them registered at the nearest police station. The transaction is on paper and there is complete transparency.”

Since there is no law to regulate the one-room agencies that have mushroomed in Delhi, each has devised its own modus operandi of verification.  Says Manil Vaid of Tomahawk Housekeeping and Security Agency, Noida. “We also check out the family. Our commission charges include verification charges, which amount to Rs 4,000.”

Others like the Delhi Raja Placement and Security Services, based in Chirag Delhi, claim to go a step further by maintaining regular contact with the family. Says Hasan Ali, manager of the agency, “Our job does not get over with verification. We make sure that both parties are comfortable.”

Many placement agencies operate without a licence. In light of the complacent manner in which they function, there is urgent need for a manpower regulation Act, say police officials. Agencies should maintain a database on the servants they provide and this should include the address, previous employment, fingerprints and references. “Most placement agencies are faceless organisations,” says criminal lawyer Ajay Digpaul.

For instance, there are many number of unorganised players such as drivers and guards who turn into recruiters. For instance, Dileep Parla sources maids but believes that the fact that they are from his district in Jharkhand is enough security. “They all hail from my district. They are like my sisters and I provide them livelihood. I don't know about police verification, as it is a matter of trust”

Laxman who works as a guard in Kotla Mubarakpur also doubles up as a placement agent for drivers and servants. “I don't know any paper work. I am providing employment to friends and relatives from Jharkhand,” he says.

Employers say that verification often takes too much time. By the time, the process is completed the servant could have moved on to another job.

It's a delay that could prove fatal.