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India: Domestic Workers Public Hearing in Jaipur

9 October 2011

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4 October 2011

More than 3000 Domestic Workers Take to the Jaipur Streets

SHARE THEIR WOES AND DEMAND RIGHTS

PUBLIC HEARING PANEL:

  • Aditi Mehta (Principal Secretary Social Justice and Empowerment),
  • Anuradha Talwar. Trade Union Activist, Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Sangathan, Kolkata
  • Jose Mohan, DCP, Jaipur Police Commissionerate
  • Bhagwan Sahai Sharma, member Secretary, State Social Welfare Board,

Domestic worker women power made history today in Jaipur when they took to the streets of Jaipur and demanded their rights from the State and society. We are not “naukranis” they said. We are workers in free India and want the dignity of being a worker. We run two homes, yours and ours, can any of you in society do without our labour, they asked boldly. Ninety percent were Bengally with about ten percent from who had come from different parts of Rajasthan.

Speaking into the mike for the first time, with her hand and voice shaking said Anjali, that at the behest of her employer the Jyoti Nagar Police Station misbehaved with her. When she had asked for a raise in wage which was due to her, they alleged that she had stolen money and ornaments. When she protested and other workers came to her rescue then the employer got them illegally detained at the police station. The police did not hear them. The male police gaze was unbearable what followed was twelve hours of mental torture and illegal detention. They were also not allowed to call up their family members. The ordeal lasted till late into the night till one of the sons of the detained workers came and rescued them. Similarly stories were shared by Rekha, Kamala, Amina and one after the other police of Jaipur was exposed, which looks at them with suspicion and is hand in glove with the employers to deny them justice.

Panchmi, Lilawati, Abhilasha came out boldly and said that they all had proof of residence back home in Cooch Behar, then why this denial of a identity card, ration card, cheap food. Did the Government not see that spiralling prices and inflation had hit them. Did they not have a right in India to get benefits of the State, they asked. Dhano demanded, that did they not have the right to use the toilet of the homes they worked, or drink water from the glasses that they cleaned. Why the discrimination?

Bisheweshari, now in her fifties said that for thirty years she had served homes in Jaipur, but now nobody wanted to keep her and they was no hope of a pension, was that not her right as a worker to get a pension and glasses.

Jayanti said that they wanted to know why they were denied a house in Jaipur. Why the Government school system which was what they could afford, were not interested in teaching their children, when they carried home fat salaries. Why the mid day meal was of such bad quality. Twenty year old Pratima weeping said that she was married off when she was 11 and then illtreated by her husband. With difficulty she had come back to her mother, who had no money to support her as domestic work got her very little money, but she wanted to stuyy and demanded support from the audience.

Sunita Rai in her forceful speech said that after the number of hours that they put in doing domestic work, they did not get a just wage, they were denied holidays or lost their wages when they took a break for even a medical situation. She gave a call to all that this Diwali, no way would they take away only a saree and sweets, they also rightly deserved a bonus.

Responding to these speakers Aditi Mehta, Principal Secretary Home, explained the process of obtaining Identity cards and would try enuring that a special administration camp be organised for this group of women. She said that since there was a low cut off of poverty line, it was not possible to to grant BPL cards to all. However, there was a case of subsidised to food for this group of workers. She also said that the social security was their right and she would tell the Government to work towards it. She was a real hit with the women as she spoke in Bengali and also expressed her solidairty in their struggle for justice.

Speaking on the ocassion Trade Union Activist from Kolkata Anuradha Talwar said that she would go back and ask the Mamta Banerjee Government to talk to Ashok Gehlot Government inorder to ensure portability of the ration card. She also objected to the supressed poverty line of the GOI and said that a universal PDS was what was needed and the domestic workers deserved to get cheap food. She also told the women that the existing minimum wage fixed by the GOR of per hour work of Rs. 509 for 26 days was very low. And that the struggle for increase of wages was legitimate. She gave the clarion trade union call of workers of the world unite, we are one.

The Jaipur Police DCP South, Jose Mohan was totally disarming in his dialogue with women. He infact told the women that he would look into the individual cases of violation and detention. He also told them that the police would cooperate in organising Thana visits in order to break the fear of the women with the police. He also told them that they should dial 100 and would be granted relief.

Bhagwan Sahai Sharma, member secretary, State Social welfare board, PUCL President, Prem Krishan Sharma, Feminist leaders Mamta Jaitly, Vijaylakshmi Joshi, Nishat Hussein and Kavita Srivastava also expressed solidarity with the women. Mewa Bharti of the Rajasthan Mahila Kamgaar Union and Harkesh Bugalia trade union leader, coordinated the whole exercise.