Domestic helpers in need of a boost

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The pandemic has affected almost all strata of people in society. Businesses, works, all in all, life has been thrown out of gear. Amidst lockdowns and infection, every citizen has had their fair share of sleepless nights owing to fear and stress. The 2020 national lockdown already showed us how lakhs of migrant laborers were left to fend for themselves as they traversed thousands of kilometers on foot. Another section of workers – the domestic helpers have also been hit hard by the pandemic. Domestic or household helpers make up a significant percentage of the working-class population of India. In many urban areas, residential complexes have over fifty domestic helpers working the daily chores of busy nuclear families. Notably, India’s urban areas have cosmopolitan settings where the working adults hold a thumping majority. And as such, the domestic helpers here play an important role in their day-to-day household chores.

Today India is witnessing a sea of change in the mindset and temperament of the people. Given the pandemic throwing lives out of gear, people have been seen adopting the new normal. With it comes the big question mark over the fate of these domestic helpers. Hailing from a humble background these helpers are, in a way, totally dependent on us for their livelihood survival. And the current pandemic has spelled disaster for them, as many households are now opting against helpers. Given the rate of infection during the second wave, many homes discontinued their services, thereby rendering them jobless suddenly. Though every state has an Association of such domestic workers, yet many such helpers are now turning towards the government for job security. A number of domestic helpers in Guwahati came out of their homes and appealed to the government for its help.

Now, people opting against helpers is also understandable, as many of such helpers reside in unhygienic surroundings and do pose a threat to the members of the household. With the Covid-19 virus transmitting via human contact, it is every household’s imperative to keep its family safe. Nevertheless, as the union government had appealed earlier, salaries of such workers must not be held by the families. Whereas, an adjustment in the salary may be made till the pandemic passes. Many households, on the other hand, are themselves reeling under rising prices and economic dip, and hence can no longer afford the services of domestic help. While some want the domestic help to get themselves vaccinated before reporting to work again. Well, not much can be done here by the government as the domestic helpers are still an unrecognized body in India. These humble workers, mostly women, have been running pillar to post in search of their savior. At least the respective state governments can resolve the vaccination issue by allowing associations and groups to take up vaccination drives amongst the domestic helpers. It can also announce a financial relief package for the domestic helpers to help them overcome the pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions. Besides, we as citizens must come together as much as we can to help each other out during such testing times. It’s time we help the helpers back and see that the pandemic does not get the better of them.

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