Domestic  Workers Stranded in the Lockdown

Domestic  Workers Stranded in the Lockdown

Before the lockdown was announced on March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged people to support and pay full wages to the support staff and domestic workers. But the reality has been very different. Most domestic workers lost their job, were denied wages and many were forced to return to their villages. For those like Santosh, who stayed back, it was a matter of days before they would run out of money or food. 

“Before the lockdown, I was earning ten thousand rupees per month — now I do not even have ten rupees in my pocket.” Santosh worked as a domestic help in a posh locality in South Delhi, until the lockdown and its many extensions was imposed. The lockdown kept her away from work for over two months. Though two of her employers did send her partial wages, it wasn’t enough to sustain her family of five. 

Santosh’s husband was a construction worker who took contractual jobs, but that too had stopped given the lockdown. Moreover, earlier whatever her husband earned he spent it all on his friends, so there was nothing much by way of savings either.  They were cash strapped and running out of food.

To make matters worse, Santosh and her family — husband, two sons and a daughter — were forced to leave their house in Yamuna Pushta and relocate to Madanpur Khadar overnight; they ended up in a tarpaulin jhuggi. The relocation meant that now her houses, where she worked as domestic help, moved 20 kms away. Even though there are houses that are willing to have her back, she cannot go until the metro services resume. 

COVID-19 has pushed millions of informal sector workers to the brink of poverty in India. They have lost their jobs with no safety nets to fall back on. The pandemic has not only exposed their vulnerability but has left their families very nearly on the brink of poverty and hunger.

As part of the response, Oxfam India has been reaching out to some of the most marginalised communities across 14 states. And with ample support from its donors it has been distributing cooked food, dry ration, hygiene and safety kits, and distributing cash to the poorest households. 

Barclays is one of them. With Barclays support, Oxfam India has reached out to nearly 7000 people in five states — Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. They include people with disabilities, women-led households, waste pickers, domestic workers, transgenders, tea garden workers, migrant and informal sector workers, riot-affected families, daily wagers, and street vendors. 

The food and hygiene kit distributed in Delhi includes, 20 kgs of Rice, 3 kgs of pulses, 10 kgs of flour, a packet of haldi and chili powder each, a litre of refined oil, a kg of salt, sugar and soy bean. The kit also includes five units of masks, and six units of bathing soap, washing soap and sanitary napkins.

“The ration supply I have got today will help us for at least a month. It is indeed a great support to me and my family during these tough times.”

 

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