Lockdown leaves domestic helps in Chandigarh tricity high and dry
Rendered jobless, maids struggle to make ends meet as residents hesitant to call them back to work amid covid fearsUpdated: May 21, 2020 23:07 IST
Rendered jobless amid the lockdown, Ankita, who was working as a domestic help in housing societies in Zirakpurfor the past two years, is now forced to live by the road with her husband and two children in a shanty that they erected on a vacant plot on the Patiala road.
“Our landlord in Badal Colony here asked us to either pay rent or vacate the house. We did not have any money, so we left. My employers gave some money and ration before asking me not to come,” says Ankita, who hails from Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh.
“Chulha to bana liya par pakane ke liye kuch nahi hai, thoda dal chawal mil jata to kuch din gujara ho jata (I have made an earthen stove, but there is nothing to cook. If only we had some lentils and rice, it would have sufficed for a few days),” says Ankita, whose husband, Rohit, a labourer, has also been jobless since March 20.
Similar is the plight of Kamla Rani, a native of Moradabad in UP, who has been working as a domestic help in Sector 4, Panchkula, for the past two decades. “Before the lockdown, I worked in around seven houses, but now, only two houses have called me back to work,” says Kamla, who has been putting up in Maheshpur village in Sector 21 with her husband, Suresh, who has also been sitting idle as the golf range in Sector 3, where he worked, has been shut.
Even though domestic helps are ready to work, they are denied entry by most housing societies in the tricity owing to fear of contracting coronavirus infection. Sarojni, a domestic help who hails from Bihar and stays in Baltana, Mohali, has taken to selling vegetables. “Had there been jobs in Bihar, why would we have to leave our home? If we go back, we will starve there too,” she says.
AUTHORITIES LEAVE IT TO PEOPLE
Even though there are no restrictions on the working of maids, the authorities are leaving the matter to “individual decision”. “They (domestic helps) can work just like any self-employed person, such as plumbers and electricians,” says Girish Dayalan, deputy commissioner, Mohali.
However, Panchkula sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Dheeraj Chahal says, “The working of maids is to be discouraged, but is not completely banned either. It is for the RWAs and individuals to take the call, keeping health protocols in mind.”
Meanwhile, Chandigarh councillor Maheshinder Singh Sidhu says: “Most people in my area have allowed domestic helps to work, but some senior citizens have raised concern.”
RESIDENT BODIES DIVIDED
While Rupinder Singh Kang, a resident of Aerocity, Mohali, says a few people in his locality have allowed the maids to come to work after following all precautions, SK Wadhawan, a member of confederation of residents’ welfare associations (RWAs), Zirakpur, says they have decided not to allow domestic helps in till the lockdown is lifted.
Surinder Sharma, a member of Chandigarh’s Sector 15 RWA, adds that only 50% of the houses in the sector have allowed maids to work daily. However, RP Malhotra, president, federation of residents’ associations, Panchkula, says there should be a ban on entry of domestic helps.