Coronavirus: Should Domestic Helps Be Allowed To Work? Housing Societies In Two Minds

In Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), maids are finding themselves at the receiving end of the nationwide lockdown.

With a let up in restrictions, the maids are ready to work, but are denied entry. (Representational)

Noida:

"No work, no pay," said the employers of Naina, a domestic help in her 20's in Uttar Pradesh's Noida, as she couldn't go to work owing to the lockdown restrictions in place since the end of March. Now, with an ailing mother at home and no source of income, Naina is finding it difficult to make the ends meet.

In Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), maids are finding themselves at the receiving end of the lockdown.

With a let up in restrictions recently, the househelps are ready to work, but are denied entry by most of the housing societies. Most of the Residents Welfare Associations (RWA) are of the opinion that these househelps - living in densely populated clusters - could be the potential carriers of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 55,000 people in the country.

"The society is under lockdown since March 25 and no maid will be allowed to enter till the lockdown restrictions are in place," said Colonel (Retired) Chopra, President, RWA, Amrapali Sapphire in Noida Sector-45.

Even as the government has appealed time and again about paying full salaries to those left unaided with the sudden enforcement of lockdown, the employers have differing opinions on it.

Anuradha, a resident of NRI Residency in Noida Sector-45, said: " I think we all must continue paying full salaries to our maids so that they can also cope with the difficult times that we all are facing right now."

But, there are others in the same society who say that they have decided not to pay because the maids were hired just a few days before the lockdown was put into effect .

The nationwide lockdown has burnt a hole into many people's pockets as several companies have resorted to salary cuts, directly affecting their ability to pay their support staff.

Rinki Jain, who works in a corporate, said her company cut her salary by 20 percent while her husband's dearness allowance was stopped for a year by the government. "We can only part with half of the maid's salary in such a scenario," she said.

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Some families in Ghaziabad, however, have decided to call their maids back to work as it was getting difficult to manage without them.

Reena Kohli, a resident of Vasundhara in Ghaziabad said: "I have been managing my huge family with elders and children, doing all the chores myself. But, when the lockdown extended, I had no option but to call my maid back. She was also happy to come back. I am taking due precaution by providing her soap, sanitiser, face mask etc".

Then, there are a few who have full-time maids living with them and are paying extra money to them on account of extra work.

"I am paying 25 % more to my full-time maid as the part time one is not coming. I am also paying a 50% salary to my part time maid who can't come due to the lockdown. The load of extra expenses is piling up," said Bhawna, a resident.

The government has left the onus of allowing maids into the society on the RWAs. The recent order, released by the Noida administration says, "Considering the diverse views received, it is clarified that RWAs can take a decision, after consulting their respective residents and consensus building, whether to allow or not allow or allow, with conditions, the entry of maid or household help".

Abhishek Gupta, Secretary of Amrapali RWA, questioned the administration's order, which says that each maid should be allowed to work at a single house in each society. Calling the order impractical, he said, "One maid works in multiple houses. How can we restrict them to just one house? It is not feasible."