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DWRU, BBGS & MKU - The Covid-19 Pandemic and the Invisible Workers of the Household Economy

Posted by Geeta Menon at Jun 16, 2020 11:10 AM |
Domestic Workers Rights Union (DWRU), Bruhat Bangalore Gruhakarmika Sangha (BBGS), and Manegelasa Kaarmikara Union (MKU) have prepared a report on the invisibilisation of domestic workers under the Covid-19 pandemic and a set of demands directed at the government and resident welfare associations (RWAs) for better, dignified and just treatment of domestic workers in Karnataka. We at CIS are proud to contribute to and publish this work as part of the ongoing 'Feminist Internet Research Network' project supported by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

 

Report: Download (PDF)

This report is authored by Geeta Menon, and edited by Aayush Rathi (CIS) and Ambika Tandon (CIS).


Introduction

Up until the first phase of the imposition of lockdown in India, while restrictions were enforced, domestic workers went to work as usual. Domestic workers were aware of the announcements of precautions, but the employers insisted they come for work disregarding any concerns for workers' safety.

During the phase of strict imposition of the first lockdown, covering the time from March 24, 2020 to the first week of May, several corporate employees “worked from home”. While pictures of employers’ families spending family time, and learning to clean and cook, circulated widely on social media and in press, domestic workers lived in cramped conditions with the fear of rations running out.

In the first 2 weeks of May, a survey of nearly 2400 domestic workers in Bengaluru was conducted by Domestic Workers Rights Union (DWRU), Bruhat Bangalore Gruhakarmika Sangha (BBGS), and Manegelasa Kaarmikara Union. Some of the findings from the survey are below:

  • 2084 (about 87%) of the workers were told not to come for work since the lockdown in March and were not sure if and when they would be called to work again.
  • 341 workers in the areas surveyed by BBGS (87%) and 150 workers in the areas surveyed by Manegelasa Kaarmikara Union lost their jobs entirely during the lockdown.
  • 91% of workers lost their salaries for the month of April.
  • 50% of all workers above the age of 50 lost their jobs during the lockdown.

The report also showcases the tyranny and hypocrisy of resident welfare associations (RWAs) and employers. The period of relaxation of the lockdown has again seen RWAs issuing directives that are demeaning to domestic workers and pose insurmountable barriers to domestic workers’ ability to work. For example, several RWAs issued emails advising residents to ask domestic workers to minimise or avoid usage of the lift and take the stairs instead. They also discouraged domestic workers from waiting in the common areas in between shifts. RWAs also invaded domestic workers’ privacy by mandating the disclosure of personal information without any protocols in place to keep this information secure.

 

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