Legal shield for domestic helps on anvil

ARTI S. SAHULIYAR IN THE TELEGRAPH

Ranchi, July 8: Building on the fundamental principle of duty with dignity, the state has readied a draft legislation to provide social security to migrant domestic workers.Proposed by the State Commission for Women and expected to be enacted by the cabinet within a month, the law will provide a much-needed framework for regulating working conditions in this unorganised labour sector and go a long way in preventing atrocities like sexual harassment and confinement.

Statistics show that nine out of every 10 tribal girls who migrate from remote Jharkhand villages to other states as domestic helps are physically assaulted.Two days ago, a 23-year-old tribal woman from Khunti met chief minister Arjun Munda in Delhi and sought justice for being allegedly raped and beaten by her employers in Meerut for two years, an ordeal that has left her paraplegic. She was also not allowed to meet her family members for over five years.

The Domestic Workers’ Social Security Act, drafted by the labour and social welfare departments with ample support from the State Commission for Women, is a take on the central draft of Domestic Workers’ Welfare and Social Security Act 2010, which is likely to be okayed by the Union cabinet very soon.Once both the state and central legislations are in place, it will be end to ordeals for domestic workers everywhere.

State women’s commission member and social activist Vasvi Kido, who had mooted the idea in March, said the draft was expected to get cabinet nod in a month.Under the proposed legislation, a domestic worker will be entitled to a minimum wage of 24 hours, medical and leave facilities, proper clothes and square meals. Besides, local police stations will have to maintain a record of migrant domestic workers. The act will also make it mandatory for the labour department to register names of all placement agencies and migrants.

“Once the law comes into force, domestic workers can earn their livelihood with dignity and respect. We cannot stop migration, but we can ensure safety of our labour force,” Kido told The Telegraph.Statistics show that 500,000 tribal girls from the state migrate to Delhi alone for jobs every year. Though domestic work constitutes an important component of the unorganised labour sector, the informal and dispersed nature of employment is a bane for those who draw sustenance from it.

According to Kido, most placement agencies that lure tribal girls from the state with the promise of lucrative offers in affluent households in metros like Delhi and Mumbai are not registered.

“In Delhi alone, there are more than thousand agencies and many of them are fake. Once the legislation is enacted, we can ensure safe migration of tribal girls. I have spoken to social welfare minister Bimla Pradhan and officials of the labour department, who have assured us that the draft legislation will soon be passed in the cabinet,” she said.  On the Khunti woman’s case, Kido said she had been approached by the victim last month. “I asked her to lodge an FIR with Khunti police,” she said. “Our aim is to avoid such horrifying incidents in the future.” She maintained that they were now in the process of preparing lists of legal placement agencies in various cities.

Social welfare minister Bimla Pradhan said the major thrust under the new law would be rehabilitation of victims. “The girls are often abused and our department will try its best to provide moral and monetary support,” she said. Labour commissioner Aradhana Patnaik said groundwork had begun for implementing the proposed legislation.“We have issued directives to all the districts to register names and details of girls leaving the state to work as domestic helps. The idea is to ensure their safety. If they go missing or remain incommunicado for long, action can be taken immediately,” she said.

For the purpose, block and panchayat officials are being given tips on how to spread awareness among villagers and maintain records of migrant workers.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110709/jsp/jharkhand/story_14215842.jsp

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