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Crying helplessly, she says, 'I can’t die, nor can I live': Delhi domestic workers' plight

Domestic workers talking with NGO volunteers
Counterview Desk
Continuing their relief work, on June 4, a team of volunteers consisting of several civil society organizations (CSOs)* provided monetary assistance to families living in Razapur Village, Sector 9, Rohini, Delhi, so that they could buy milk, medicine and essential items for women and children. Selected by activists and community workers, many of those who received the help are domestic workers.
Finding their condition deplorable, a note on the interaction during the relief work suggests that these families’ situation is no better than what the volunteers had found during their earlier interactions with other sections of marginalized sections, including sanitation workers, sewer workers, daily wage and migrant labourers, all of them belonging to backward communities.
“All these families were already in a very deplorable condition. Due to the lockdown, these people are unable to get work, most used to earn daily and feed themselves”, the note says.

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At Razapur Village, Sector 9, Rohini, people living in this colony are mostly in the profession of the domestic worker or rikshaw puller. They live in rented accommodations. We were able to provide monetory assistance to 50 such families. Here are excerpts from the relief team's interaction with them:
Gomti used to work as a domestic helper. Her family consists of a husband who is blind and five kids among which, one is disabled. She used to work in two houses which has completely stopped. She cries and tell us “ek waqt ki chai bhi naseeb nhi hoti” (I am unable to get tea for one time).
She received wheat and rice from ration shop but it is insufficient to feed a family of seven. Her room rent is Rs 6,000 per month. She asks us, “What should I do? I don’t have energy now to work but have no option. One girl is of 26 year of age. I have to get her married”. She cries helplessly as she says “na me mar sakti hu, naa me ji sakti hu” (I can’t die, nor can I live).
Sheila Devi, age 25, who used to work as domestic helper in a ‘kothi’, lives in a rented room. Her room rent is Rs 6,000, including electricity and water. She has been receiving ration but is unable to pay rent since the lockdown was introduced as she has received no work, therefore no pay, since the lockdown. If she pays the rent of the house, she says, she won’t be able to eat and feed her family.
Anguri and her daughter, both used to work as domestic workers but now are unemployed due to lockdown. Her son used to work in the office has been unemployed and her husband used to wash cars but now people don’t drive cars and therefore husband has no work. The family gets food from schools with government aid for one time a day and the other time, they try to arrange it by themselves.
Before the lockdown, they were able to meet their normal house needs, but now a situation of starvation is standing in front of them
Rasha is a migrant worker and hails from Jhansi. She is 25, and used to earn living by doing household chores. She has no work and money. With 4 kids and husband stuck in village, she had to take loan from someone to feed her family. Also, she had to pay Rs 3,000 per month even during the lockdown as her landlord left no option.
Om Prakash is a 65 year-old man who used to work as a rickshaw puller for the last 18 years. Since last 4 months, he has no work. His room rent is Rs 4,000 per month which he is unable to pay but has to pay later. He received no ration from government as he is not an “aadhaar card” holder.
Rambai, a 60-year-old migrant worker from Panna who is working in Delhi as a domestic worker for the last 20 years used to earn monthly Rs. 7-8,000 per month is now unemployed. Her room rent is Rs. 5000 per month which she paid after taking a loan. She received ration from CSOs.
Meena a domestic worker in Shakti Apartment with four kids has no ration card and received a dry ration kit once from civil society since lockdown was imposed.
The financial situation of all these families has deteriorated due to the lockdown. Before the lockdown, they were able to meet their normal house needs from their business or work, but now a situation of starvation is standing in front of them.
Women and men are all unemployed and are not getting any financial assistance from anywhere. The young children of these families are starving. The sick and the elderly are becoming critical due to lack of medicines.
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*Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch, National Alliance of People's Movement, Ambedkarwadi Lekhak Sangh, Delhi Solidarity Group, Magadh Foundation, Rehabilitation Research Initiative, Natt Ghumakkad Samaj Kalyan Samiti, National Domestic Workers Union, Delhi Forum, SRUTI, Helping Hands Charitable Trust

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