Domestic Workers: Struggle for Social Security Benefits

Coutesy: the Hindu

Globalization & the new economic policy have only benefited capitalism & their stooges in the Indian govt. Liberalization policy have only resulted in crores (millions) of organized workers being pushed out to the unorganized sector.

Of the 800 million (80 crore) unorganized workers, a significant part of them are domestic workers (over 100 million). From the age of 10 years to their ripe old age, we find women not only slaving in their homes but also working in the houses of the wealthy & the middle classes as the only other means for their livelihood.

Though the domestic workers make an enormous contribution to the society by their service, they continue to remain invisible. The millions of middle class, those in the bracket of higher salaries will not be in a position to contribute to the GDP if these poorly paid domestic workers do not slog for them. In spite of their back breaking labor, 90% of the domestic workers have not been recognized as workers at all by the Indian govt. Denied of a decent living wage, a weekly holiday, sick leave & other basic rights, social security only remains a mirage.

In a society ridden with caste discrimination, they are further discriminated in their workplaces by the house owner by serving them food in separate plates & cups, which are often rotten, leftover food. While these workers are made to clean bathrooms & toilets, they are forbidden to use these facilities themselves. The washed clothes & plates are further washed by the owners once again to make it further ‘clean’ (in order to cleanse it from the workers lower class/ caste ‘pollution’). Domestic workers have to bear the brunt of of insults, sexual harassment & mental torture at their workplaces.

Despite working under extremely miserable conditions such as low wages, the govt. is yet to take steps to alleviate their conditions. Though a bill has been passed by the parliament in relation to the minimum wages for domestic workers in 2004, no political party is showing interest to get the bill executed. With govt. shutting its eyes to their problems, social security remains a distant dream.

In 2008, despite passing of the unorganized workers social security act by the govt., provisions such as health benefits, home loans, pension, student scholarship & other benefits remain only on paper. In Maharastra, Tamil Nadu & Kerala, after long years of struggle, domestic workers have won a few privileges. Apart from domestic workers, daily wage labors, hotel workers, tailors, laundry workers, auto drivers & other such category of unorganized workers have been chosen by those state govt. to benefit from the labor welfare boards. But in Karnataka, domestic workers are not part of the labor welfare boards.

Despite the overwhelming majority of domestic workers being Dalits, why is the plight of the domestic workers not visible in the eyes of the govt?


New Socialist Alternative

(Article translated from ‘Dudiyora Horaata’ sep-oct 2010)