Pune domestic helpers resume work with safety restrictions
Domestic helpers from non-containment zones have rejoined work, but follow strict regulationsUpdated: May 21, 2020 16:20 IST
In phase 4.0 of the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Sars-Cov-2 virus which causes Covid-19 (coronavirus) infection, some housing societies have partially allowed house helps from non-containment zones to return to work.
Amid apprehensions, Lata Salunke, who works as a domestic help at Kohinoor society, off Spicer College road, went to work on Wednesday.
“I have been calling my employers for the past 20 days to resume work. They paid my salary until April, but May was getting a bit difficult,” she said.
“Ours is a joint family and two among us work as maids. While I got a call to resume work, my sister-in-law is awaiting a positive reply from her employer,” said Salunke.
“When I entered the bungalow society, the security staff checked me for fever before asking me whether I was carrying gloves and requested that I wear mask at all times while I was in my employee’s home. I was also informed that the garbage collected should be thrown inside the bin kept at the house. I sweep and clean the house, but it becomes difficult to work wearing gloves,” she said.
Her sister-in-law Sunita Salunkhe sits outside their small home, cleaning utensils, eagerly waiting for her employer’s call. “My employee has paid my salary till May, but I need to work. I used to work at three houses in the same building, but owners of two houses called to say that they do not need my services.”
The situation is almost similar in many of the housing societies in the city, where some domestic helpers from non-containment zones have rejoined work, but follow strict regulations.
“We have started allowing domestic helps at our society from May 18. Apart from thermal screening and use of sanitiser at entrances, we have insisted that it is compulsory to wear mask at society premises. They cannot loiter, but visit houses and leave the residential premises once the work is over,” said Maithily Manakwad, a resident of NIBM road.
“Maids have been given passes. They are not allowed to chew tobacco and spit. The public toilets have been acid-washed and marked for men and women,” Manakwad said.
Meanwhile, in Padmavilas society, off Baner-Pashan link road, the society has allowed services of domestic help in houses of senior citizens and nuclear families which have children.
“We had three to four domestic helpers who work in our society as almost 50 per cent of them have left for their hometowns. We have requested them to share their details like their address, number of people in their house, mode of transport among others,” said Rajendra Chuttar, chairman, Padmavilas society.
Saroj Agarwal, a senior citizen and a resident of Baner-Pashan link road, has called her domestic help who lives nearby in the quarters provided by the builder. “We have provided our domestic helper and their entire family medicine and masks. She only cleans the house and follows the social distancing norms,” said Agarwal.
Nirgunabai, who was working as a domestic helper and leaving for Beed tonight (Wednesday), said, “I wasn’t getting any work here, so I thought to return home and help my family in farming.”
As many as 275 members in Aathashri Pashan have 38 domestic helpers who have been provided with accommodation and food. “We arranged for six women to stay within our complex 24-hours. They provided services as substitutes throughout the lockdown period. We, therefore, did not find it difficult. Also, we have senior citizens need round-the-clock helpers. We sanitise the entire complex twice a week,” said Hari Sundaresh, president of Athashri Pashan, on Baner-Pashan link road.
“We do not plan to bring anyone from outside till the lockdown ends on May 31,” said Sundaresh.
According to Sachin Vijay Khandelwal, a resident of Karan Celista, Sopan Baug, they are awaiting clarity from the civic body on maids resuming work. “We have not yet allowed domestic helpers to resume work in society. Most of the senior citizens residing in the society, except one or two, do not want services of domestic help as of now. If we get a circular from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which specifies areas of containment and non-containment zones, accordingly we will take a call,” said Khandelwal.
Residential societies set guidelines for domestic helps
Lack of clarity from Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on maids has left many residential societies to set their own rules and regulations.
Santosh Krishna, a resident of Wagholi, said, “I think the civic body has left the decision to housing societies to allow domestic helpers to resume work. A formal order from resident welfare associations or local governing body would have made things clear.”
“We are taking a very protective approach because of the virus spread and will take a call later,” said Krishna.
Several housing societies held online meetings to draft policies regarding maids and other domestic helpers. “At Sahil Sarene, we are also keeping PMC in the loop via online,” said Ameya Karambelkar a resident of Baner.
While some felt that the onus of safety of its residents lies with the management, but lack of clarity on the issue is making it difficult to take a decision.
“There are genuine requests for maids from senior citizens, patients, pregnant women, nursing mothers and working women. So, clarity from authorities on the issue in a must,” said Mehzabin Saiyed, secretary, Nyati Empire, Kharadi.
“The domestic helpers in our society are not coming as of now. While some members of the society want to call back their maids, others are against because of health reasons” said Nitin Memane, a resident of Gera Emerald City North, Kharadi, adding that members are paying maids at least half salary.
In Balewadi, some societies are collecting personal details of maids and ensuring that they belong from green zone. Other criteria include the helpers should either walk to work or use their personal vehicle (no public transport), should have stayed in Pune address for 15 days and should not be unwell.
“We have advised people to start with one domestic helper, but many members are hesitant to call them,” said Sangeeta Baheti, a resident of Balewadi.
Nandan Prospera, a residential society in Baner, has allowed a few domestic helpers to resume work from June 1, but only to houses that genuinely need their services. The housing committee has made resident employers responsible for ensuring that the maids follow all preventive criteria set by the government. The domestic helps will be issued an ID card only after the health safety measures are met.