Maids striking in a multi-story complex in Mumbai
The above two made recent headlines and reached even the New York Times edition. We the Indian employers of domestic workers are famously infamous!
Some of us think it is just passing bits of news.
But, the question is should we really forget it? Or look at the deep underlying issues, since it will ultimately impact us all?
After all, we all will agree, Indians are maybe the most maid and domestic workers-dependent people in the world.
So much so that when we travel to other countries, we want to have an Indian domestic worker, if possible.
Our domestic helper is supposed to be a jack of all, and master of some: clean dishes, sweep, mop, clean toilets, wash clothes, iron, if not enough work for the servant, grocery shopping, pick up and drop off children at bus stand, take children to the park, cook, take elderly out, walk dogs and do all other days to day tasks.
Everything which allows us to lead a happy, status-linked life is dependent upon our having good domestic helpers. We can have kids only when we are sure of getting a full-time baby sitter, we can get a pet dog if we are sure we will have a dog walker available easily.
An important part of Family
Our homes stop functioning if the maid is on leave. We tend to order food from outside if the cook is on leave. Kids cannot go out for their evening play without the aaya. The poor dog, may not be the cuddly lovely pet the day the dog walker does not turn up.
So, it is a surprise that in spite of so much dependence we don’t pay them better, and in time, deprive them of salary and leaves, criticize them and bully them, don’t want to make a small investments, and make a big show of the fact that we give them all leftover food, old clothes, and yes “tea” every day.
Problems faced by Them
All along, while we shamelessly exhibit our wealth in front of these same servants, we grudge them Rs. 40-50 an hour to ensure a comfortable life.
If our need is real, why are we not willing to ensure their comfort and thereby an uninterrupted service? Is it because the supply is too large? because we know they have nowhere else to go? or we know they can unite to stand against us? maybe even because it suits us to have poverty around us and to keep our servants’ poor so that they can never think of rising against us.
I feel the above incidents may be a precursor to a Class war in the making. For long we have been used to domestic helpers who would not complain disallowance to drink water from the same utensils or sit on the ground while talking and stand outside the house in case master had to step down.
They would do their work silently even when their madams would follow them around in every room, making them feel like thieves who would steal everything within visible limits.
But now as the above incidents show, the workers have found a new strength in unity due to increased networking possible.
If the employers can unite, so can they, as was shown in the speed with which action was taken.
The workers in both cases knew they may lose their jobs but pushed to limits. Push has actually come to a shove, and they may realize better to shove the other side a bit too.
Online Hiring Websites
Online service providers like Helper4U, Urban Clap, My Didi, etc are helping them find better jobs, with dignity. Certification courses form DWSSC to improve their wages, and domestic worker’s unions like NDWM are also doing their bit.
It means, there is light at the end of the tunnel to reach and slowly, but steadily, our domestic workers are getting ready.
A contract can be of great help to ensure both Employer and Helper safety read more here