Battered housemaids: Growing trend, violated rights


(IANS) Barkha (name changed) was just 12 when she came to Delhi from West Bengal to work as a domestic help, her only option to escape the life of grinding poverty back home. She started working as a maid at the home of a doctor in West Delhi, and hoped her life would change for the better.

But her dreams came crashing when her employer started beating and abusing her for small mistakes.

“She would slap me and shout at me for no reason, I was made to stand under the summer sun, they did not give me food and locked me inside the house,” Barkha told IANS, recounting her tale of horror which ended only when she managed to call her parents who contacted the police.

She was rescued from the west Delhi flat in 2012 after serving for a few months. Barkha is not the only one. In the last one year, around 170 cases of violence against domestic helps have been reported in the capital.

But the case that has jolted the people due to its sheer perversity is of dental surgeon Jagriti, who was arrested for allegedly beating to death her 35-year-old maid Rakhi.

Jagriti, wife of a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Dhananjay Singh, has also been accused of severely battering her two other servants. He has also been arrested for allegedly destroying evidence and violating the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. The couple is in police custody.

According to Rishikant, spokesperson with NGO Shakti Vahini, violence against domestic helps is on the rise.”There has been a rise in such cases. There is an all-round debasement in society.

“It is also linked to the economic situation of the people. People have suddenly got rich, and this makes them ill-treat those who are poor or are working for them,” Rishikant told IANS. The NGO rescues minors working as child labourers.

Recounting a 2006 incident, which he has never been able to forget, Rishikant said three girls aged between eight and 12 were rescued from a Faridabad house.

“Their employer used to give them food inside the toilet and used to beat them with a flat wooden bat meant for pounding clothes while washing. The three were brought here on the pretext of a job from West Bengal and Chhattisgarh,” Rishikant told IANS.

The three girls were working in an engineer’s residence. According to Deputy Commissioner of Police S.B.S. Tyagi, such brutality is seen in homes where the woman of the house is “frustrated” or “depressed” for whatever reason.

“It might be financial loss, marital discord or mental disorder. But nobody has the right to assault their maid, whether they are minor or major,” Tyagi told IANS.

In the past decade such cases have gone up and in most of them, the victims are minor girls, said another police officer.

Girls from eastern states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, as also Andhra Pradesh, are usually brought as housemaids. They are often lured to Delhi by a placement agency agent, who brings them on the pretext of job but then “sells” them to an employer.

According to the Delhi Police, there are thousands of placement agencies that are operating illegally. “There are huge numbers of placement agencies running in the capital, but we don’t have the exact data. We immediately take action as per the law whenever we get information about a fake placement agency,” Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat told IANS.

In the past two months, three maid-battering cases have been reported in the national capital. In September, a minor from West Bengal was recovered from the south Delhi home of a female employee of a multinational company.

Police arrested the employer. In October, a 13-year-old girl ran away from her air hostess employer’s home in south Delhi after being locked for two days. Police later arrested the air hostess.

According to Rishikant, in 90 percent of such cases, the minor girls were assaulted by their female employers.

There is yet no specific law to safeguard the rights of domestic workers. The employer can be booked under laws preventing child labour if a child below 14 years is employed as a domestic help.

For children between 14 and 18 years of age, the Juvenile Justice Act comes into play.

For crimes in which the domestic help is an adult, various sections of the Indian Penal Code are invoked.

The draft Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Bill lays emphasis only on the functioning of placement agencies and the background check of domestic workers. But the bill, which has been long-pending, is silent on the rights of domestic workers and on penalising employers found violating these rights.

(Alok Singh can be contacted at

Human trafficking rampant in coastal Andhra

By Sulogna Mehta, Published in The Times Of India

VISAKHAPATNAM: In the last six months alone, eight minor girls were rescued from commercial sex workers’ dens in the city as well as from tribal and coastal areas, while a year ago 22 women and minor girls facing sexual harassment were rescued from a brick kiln in Andhra Odisha border, say NGOs. But shockingly none of these cases either found their way to the police records or none of the culprits were booked under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

Trafficking of children and underage girls is rampant in the coastal districts of AP, especially in Agency and coastal areas. Even though the government officials, NGOs and police unanimously admit to it, most of these cases of exploitation take place on the sly, with the result that no cases have been registered under the ITPA.

This despite the police and women-child welfare officials concerned realizing that it is high time they activate the existing district level committees and anti-trafficking squads to step up vigilance. Currently, the existing committees are allegedly lying in a dormant state and lack the teeth being stringent enough to bring the culprits to book.

Girls from this region are mostly trafficked to Goa and Mumbai and sold in brothels or used in sex tourism. Absence of proper vigil and sensitisation programmes among police and district administration has led to an increase in trafficking even though the heinous crime goes unrecorded,” said B Ramu, executive secretary, Grama Swarajya Samithi (GSS), an NGO that works for women and child welfare. “In fact, even if girls are rescued, the cases are not booked under ITPA but are diluted into offences like creating nuisance etc. Most of the victims also suffer from various sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.” added Ramu.

“Taking advantage of the loss of their traditional occupation (agriculture), debt trap, poverty and unemployment, often pimps in disguise lure them with promise of jobs and marriage. With industrialisation, tourism projects and real estate activities, strangers and outsiders have been coming into the region in the guise of contract workers and migrant labourers and some of them are even indulging in trafficking,” Ramu explained

D Bangarapapa, circle inspector, district crime records bureau admitted that pimps and traffickers frequent the tribal and rural areas in the guise of migrants. “There’s no doubt that such trafficking of children and women is taking place in the vulnerable areas of the city, villages as well as the Agency areas such as Araku and Paderu. But since no complaints are filed, we can’t register cases under ITPA. There is also no active district-level committee to look into this issue,” she said.

Concurring that there’s an urgent need to curb trafficking, especially of underage girls, A E Robert, project director of the women and child welfare department, Vizag, said, “We are soon going to activate community vigilant groups in all villages of the district and sensitise sarpanches, supervisors, police constables as well as self-help groups. Families having many girls will be identified through a survey and made cautious about any strangers coming to the village and luring them with jobs or promise of marriage. The awareness programmes will be taken to the grass-root level and the point emphasized strangers should be questioned.”

Sadly, despite a government order highlighting the need for a comprehensive policy and action plan to combat trafficking of women and children as well as rescue and rehabilitation of victims, no concrete measures have been taken despite industrialization, commercial activities and migration making inroads into the vulnerable areas.


Born in Bengal, ‘sold’ in Delhi


New Delhi, Nov. 7: Some 55,000 women and girls trafficked from Bengal are working as maids in Delhi, many of them “sold as bonded labourers” to wealthy households where they slog for ungodly hours without pay and are often tortured or sexually abused.

More than half these women are minors — many as young as 10 — who are duped with promises of a better life and brought to the capital by “scouts” appointed in Bengal by Delhi-based illegal placement agencies.

The dismal picture was painted by Delhi police, government officials and NGOs whom The Telegraph spoke to after an MP and his wife were arrested here on the charge of abusing two maids from Bengal.

Rakhi Bhadra, who has died allegedly of torture by Jagriti, wife of Bahujan Samaj Party MP Dhananjay Singh, had been “sold” to her employers for Rs 1.2 lakh about ten months ago by a south Delhi-based placement agency, a police officer said.

“The MP paid the money to the agency. Rakhi was confined to the ground floor and forced to slog in subhuman conditions. She was never paid any wages; she was only provided two meals a day,” the officer said.

Rakhi had come from Rabindranagar in Dum Dum. Meena Sardar, 37, also a resident of North 24-Parganas, was sold by the same agency to the MP but the amount is unknown, the officer said. Meena is in hospital for her injuries, suffered allegedly at the hands of her employers.

Police raids are on to arrest the people running the agency, deputy commissioner S.B.S. Tyagi said.

Children in demand

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for the rehabilitation of trafficked children, said girls aged between 10 and 15 were “the most in demand” for maids’ jobs in Delhi.

He accused the government of not doing enough. “The capital has become the country’s child-trafficking hub. The government should regulate the placement agencies, enforce the law against child labour and form a task force to curb this racket,” he said.

Kant alleged that most of the illegal placement agencies paid a monthly bribe to the local police station.

Raj Mangal Prasad, former chairperson of the Delhi government’s child welfare committee, said more than 2,000 illegal placement agencies operated in the capital.

“Their hired scouts travel to remote areas of Bengal and Jharkhand (which accounts for 50,000 maids in Delhi) and promise young girls a better life and a fixed monthly income which would allow them to send money back home,” Prasad said.

“They bring these girls here to work as bonded labourers, who are tortured and even sexually abused by their employers. Some of the girls are rescued by the police and NGOs and a few manage to flee, but most of them have no choice but to work as virtual slaves their whole lives.”

An official at the Delhi government’s social welfare department said the administration had made it mandatory for all placement agencies to be registered under the Shops and Establishment Act, but there was hardly any mechanism in place to monitor compliance.

Tyagi said all police stations had been asked to compile a list of placement agencies in their areas.

“We are also appealing to people to report to us if they come across children working as domestic help in their locality.”

18-month ordeal

In August last year, the child welfare committee had asked the police to crack down on illegal placement agencies after hearing the plight of two minor girls trafficked from Jalpaiguri in Bengal.

The police had rescued the girls, both of whom had been forced to work without pay by clients of Astha Placement Agency in Delhi. The agency’s three co-owners — Rajesh, Ashish and Ranvir — were arrested.

One of the Jalpaiguri girls was duped by an acquaintance from her village and brought to the agency. She worked for over a year and a half at several houses, slogging from 8am to 11pm without pay. A probe suggested she had been raped by one of her employers.

The other girl was trafficked to Delhi on May 30 and forced to work with the first girl. The child welfare committee asked Astha’s owners to pay Rs 60,000 to the first girl and Rs 5,500 to the second.

When welfare committee officials went through the agency’s register, they were shocked to see the list of girls it had allegedly trafficked from Bengal and supplied to homes in Delhi as maids.

“The agency had also sent some to neighbouring states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. We directed the police’s crime branch to probe the case and rescue the girls,” Prasad said.

A probe has revealed that agency co-owner Ranvir was a vegetable seller but had made enough money from the racket to be able to own two flats in Delhi.

“He was from Cooch Behar in Bengal and had his scouts in several areas of the state,” a crime branch officer said.

‘Human trafficking rises threefold’


RANCHI: Trafficking from Jharkhand has increased threefold in the past three years, show data released by the social welfare, women and children development department that has worked on the basis of rescued persons.

As many as 441 people have been rescued from the clutches of traffickers between 2010 and October 2013. The rise in the numbers of the rescued is shocking.

While 55 people, including minors, were rescued in 2010-11, 107 were rescued in 2011-12 and 141 in 2012-13. Between April and October 2013, 137 people have been rescued.

“Number of trafficked victims can be higher as we are just giving a data of rescued people. However, it cannot be denied that the number of trafficked victims have increased over the years,” said Sanjay Mishra, head of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an NGO that works with the department to rescue and bring back trafficked victims.

The figures also show that 36% of the people, belonging to Jharkhand and rescued from across the country, are from Gumla district.

“The second on the list is West Singhbhum with 27% followed by Jamtara with 14% of the total rescued people. The least number of people are trafficked from Sahibganj with only 0.4% people being rescued for trafficking,” said Mishra, who is also a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Mishra said the first draft for plan of action to deal with trafficking has already been made by the social welfare department. “The plan of action includes all details like how to conduct rescue operations, correct procedure of lodging FIRs, responsibility of various departments and shelter for rescued people,” said Mishra.

He added, “The plan of action will also help in rescuing the victims right from the transit points and the victims will be saved from being sent to other cities. This might take some time but we are all working towards making Jharkhand a trafficking free state.”

However, Rishi Kant, a member of NGO Shakti Vahini, who has been actively involved in the rescue operations says the figures provided by the state government are not correct.

He said, “The number of trafficked victims from Jharkhand is much higher than what has been represented. The government does not even have the proper figures of missing children of the state how can they give the figures of trafficking.”

Pattern of maid abuse


New Delhi, Nov. 5: The death of a household help at a Bahujan Samaj Party MP’s home appears to be a fresh pointer to a growing pattern of 24×7 domestic hands falling prey to abuse by well-to-do employers.

Rakhi, a 35-year-old maid from Bengal’s Dum Dum, was found dead at Jaunpur MP Dhananjay Singh’s home with injuries on the head, chest, arms and stomach. The MP’s dentist-wife Jagriti has been arrested for alleged torture.

This is the latest in a series of cases in the capital in which 24-hour domestic helps have been ill-treated and tortured by educated and moneyed employers.

As recently as October 1, Vandana Dhir, a senior executive with a French MNC, was arrested on charges of abusing her minor maid, who was from Jharkhand. The teen was reported to have been beaten with brooms, attacked with knives, kept half-naked to block her from fleeing, not given leave to go home and not paid a single month’s salary.

“In the last two years, this has become a trend of sorts — upper-class households resorting to violence against maids. The rich do not understand the compulsions that drive a young girl to leave home to seek work,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, the organisation that rescued the girl a month ago.

“Cases like these will increase as the economy spirals downwards. These people don’t know what it is to have less. They will show their desperation on their maids, who anyway are like dirt to them.”

Last year, a doctor couple was taken to court for locking up their 13-year-old maid, who was from Jharkhand, in their house while they were holidaying in Thailand. In 2011, a senior MCD officer and his wife had locked up their minor maid before going to a trade fair; the same year, an industrialist went abroad for a week, handing his help Rs 20 for daily expenses.

According to a registered staff-training and placement agency, around 70,000 families look for household helps in Delhi and Gurgaon at any point of time.

According to rough estimates, there are about 50 million domestic workers who are not covered under any law, such as the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, or the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1926.

The Domestic Workers (Registration, Social Security and Welfare) Act, 2008 — amended in 2010 — is still pending. Such workers have, however, been brought within the ambit of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) law that was passed this year.

Arrest of MP’s wife puts Indian slavery in the spotlight




The arrest of an Indian MP’s wife for allegedly torturing her maid to death and a recent report on global slavery has shed light on the need to protect the vulnerable.

The abuse and exploitation of domestic workers in India continues to rise in the absence of a law to safeguard their rights. The surging demand for such helps in middle-class households is not only motivating a business in human trafficking but also exposing the vulnerabilities of such workers.

Puja, 15, is still traumatized by the ordeal she underwent for the tortuous three months at the hands of a senior corporate executive in upscale south Delhi. With bite marks all over body and deep gashes on her head, Puja, who requested her real name not be used, says it is a miracle she is alive.

Shocking accounts of abuse

“I was beaten almost everyday. The injuries made me weak and often I was left to starve in the confines of the flat. On most occasions, Madam did not allow me to wear clothes so I would not escape,” Puja told DW, as tears swelled up in her eyes.

“It was living hell and I curse the placement agency that put me there,” adds Puja, who hails from the eastern state of Jharkhand, where a majority of helps hail from.

But providence smiled after an alert neighbor heard Puja’s plaintive wails one late September evening. The police arrived and arrested her employer on charges of assault and illegal confinement. Puja was immediately sent to the hospital for treatment.

Barely had the dust settled on this incident when another case surfaced with equal if not more gravity last month. A 12-year-old girl who was continuously abused for a year was rescued after her employer, an airhostess with a national carrier, thrashed her regularly.

“I slept only for five hours and woke up at 8 a.m. to finish the household chores. She would be drunk at times and beat me up if I did not follow her instructions. I was too scared to complain,” the young girl told the Child Welfare Board. The air-hostess was detained.

In the latest incident, the wife of a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) parliamentarian was arrested in the capital on Tuesday for allegedly torturing her 17-year-old maid to death in the capital.

Thousands trafficked

The assault on domestic workers has put the spotlight not only on the abuse of servants in Indian cities but has also underlined the indifference of society towards such violence.

Thousands of women and children from poor families who come from impoverished regions in the east and the north are employed as domestic helpers after being lured by unscrupulous placement agencies with the promise of better jobs and education.

Stories of abuse, torture and violence against this segment continues unabated in vast swathes of the country. Though India banned children under 14 from working as domestic servants in 2006, the rule is blatantly ignored and both boys and girls are trafficked from various states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

“Trafficking by agencies continues unchecked and this unsafe migration to big cities has led vulnerable children and women to forced labor. It is a vicious circle. Employers look for young children as they don’t complain and can be exploited,” Rishi Kant of the organization Shakti Vahini told DW.

His organization has been active in rescuing domestic workers and to date has saved over 600 children and women from being trafficked in Delhi.

Pressing need for legislation

While the demand for a national legislation to protect domestic helpers gets louder, the government has chosen to turn a deaf ear. A draft national policy for domestic workers has been on the backburner for several years and a consensus still seems elusive.

The draft policy, which has been worked out with NGOs and children’s organizations, seeks to give workers the right to minimum wages, paid leave and regulated working hours, among others. It also proposes to bestow on them the right to form trade unions.

Moreover, India has yet to acknowledge domestic help as “workers” and has yet to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention 2011 adopted by the International Labour Organization treaty or adopt holistic protection to this workforce.

“Unless we act now, this modern slavery is only going to spiral and take more vicious forms. Legislation is the need of the hour and it has to be done fast,” Nina Nayak, a member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights told DW.

The Walk Free Foundation’s latest Global Slavery Index of 2013 that provides a ranking of 162 countries is an eye-opener; the study puts India at the top of the list with the largest estimated number of people in modern slavery – estimated between 13.3 and 14.7 million.

“By far the largest proportion of this problem is the exploitation of Indians citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labor,” the report states.