Many like Roma Sen has uncertain future. (Jasvinder Sehgal/Asia Calling)

Earlier this month, the Indian government submitted a new policy draft on domestic workers. Despite the new draft, workers are protesting the current situation.

As in Jaipur, thousands of women domestic workers have gathered near the Albert Museum. They are shouting slogans like: “Give us justice… “All women are united… “Give us food, shelter and proper wages…”

This 26-year-old woman was raped by her employer, while working in his kitchen. “My employer registered a case of stealing to the police against me. I resented that and raised my voice but of no use. I was taken to a local police station and I was beaten badly. Now the case is in the court, nobody is there to help me,” she explained.

According to the International Labor Organization, India has nearly 5 million domestic workers. More than 80 percent are women, working under poor conditions.

The organizer of the rally, Mewa Bharathi, said domestic workers lack of medical facilities, improper residential arrangements, uncertain wages, and no holidays. “If any of us got injured at the workplace, the employer nor the government provides us treatment,” she said.

India has laws for social security, sexual harassment, and minimum wages for domestic workers. But the government is struggling to document all its workers.

Activist Kavita Srivastava says it’s crucial to have clear database. She said, “Imagine living in a city without an identity card. You will end up at the bat of the police. The police will take you first. Today our major demand is 100 percent registration of all the domestic workers under this law.”   

The new policy draft gives hope to thousands of poor workers across the country. It requires workers to be paid a minimum 140 US dollar a month - and also aims to protect workers from sexual harassment.

India’s Labor Minister Bandaru Dattatraye said, “We have already started adopting social security measures for them. We have started issuing them Universal Account Numbers for their Provident Funds.”  

Once the law is there, employers must provide health insurance, weekly and maternity leave, and pension funds for the workers. And employers will have to hire through placement agencies only.

The draft will be discussed in the cabinet soon, and then parliament… but it’s still a long way to go.

Back at the protest... 80-year-old Roma Sen says she can’t wait any longer. “I’m old and my employers are not happy with my work. They want to get rid of me. Tell me where should I go? What should I do?” she said.


 

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