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Without Regulation, India's Domestic Workers Face Low Pay and Other Abuses
Written by Rezwan On 20 December 2013 @ 17:05 pm | No Comments
In Development, Economics & Business, English, Governance, Human Rights, India, Labor, South Asia, Weblog
The dramatic arrest of India's deputy consul in New York Devyani Khobragade  on charges of visa fraud for overstating the wages of her housekeeper have thrust the plight of India's domestic workers into the spotlight.
Khobragade allegedly lied on documents for her maid, saying that she paid the woman 9.75 US dollars an hour when she actually received about 3 dollars, far below the minimum wage. The arrest has sparked a cooling of relations between India and the US over Khobragade's treatment, which included a strip and cavity searches, while in custody.
Housekeeper Sangeeta Richard claims Khobragade made her work long hours  seven days a week, until she walked away one day. Indian officials and Khobragade say the maid tried to blackmail  the diplomat. In the first days of the incident, mainstream media largely focused on Khobragade's ordeal, devoting very little coverage to Richard.
Interesting how India is all outraged over how a diplomat is treated, but not over how an Indian domestic worker is paid.
— Vidyut (@Vidyut) December 17, 2013 
#India  diplomat's alleged strip-search raises concerns over dignity and privacy. But lets also talk about domestic workers rights.
— meenakshi ganguly (@mg2411) December 18, 2013 
Whatever the case, the story is a familiar one. India's more than nine million  domestic workers , about 20 percent of the total workforce, are an indispensable workforce vital to the country's development, but they are often deprived of many rights. Fixed minimum wage, pay for additional hours worked, maternity leave, medical care and other such basic benefits remain illusive to them  in the absence of a national policy. They are vulnerable to abuse and poverty. The nature of their work, informal employee-employer relationship, and the workplace being the private household, excludes their coverage from the existing labour laws in place for workers of other industry.
In 2012, a Draft National Policy for Domestic Workers  was prepared by the Labor Ministry, giving domestic workers the right to minimum wage, paid leave and regulated working hours, to be sent to the Union Cabinet for approval. The proposal was originally recommended by the National Advisory Council (NAC) in April 2009, aimed at bringing domestic workers under the umbrella of existing labor laws. However, in May 2013 the Indian government deferred the proposal , making the fate of the policy uncertain.
— Anannya Bhattacharje (@AnannyaBhattach) December 19, 2013 
Vidyut  at AamJanata pointed out that the rights of domestic workers in India are being ignored from all sides:
Domestic work is probably the only “job sector” in India, where the industrial revolution is never going to make an inroad, because it takes more money added to your electricity bill to use a vacuum cleaner, washing machine or dishwasher daily than to employ a maid, who can do the job better. [..]
India has signed the [International Labour Organization's] convention for rights of domestic workers in 2011, but is yet to ratify it. Calls to fix a domestic worker’s minimum wage to Rs.30 per hour have fallen on deaf ears.
Editor for India Today Gayatri Jayaraman defended the domestic worker profession:
The domestic worker is a valid occupation. Most decent Indians have maids. Most maids in Mumbai are empowered women who run their own homes.
— Gayatri Jayaraman (@SellingViolets) December 18, 2013 
Kamayani Bali Mahabal  at Kracktvist reported that last month representatives from 42 countries, including India, came together to create the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), a first-ever formal federation of domestic workers.
Shashank Sahay  at Mowing the Law blog discussed some ways forward to ensure the rights of domestic workers, suggesting legislation that includes domestic workers in labour law.
Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org
URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/20/indias-domestic-workers-low-pay-and-abuse-devyani-khobragade-arrest/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://www.demotix.com/photo/1855172/nari-shakti-manch-celebrates-iwd-2013-domestic-workers-gurgaon
 India's deputy consul in New York Devyani Khobragade: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/18/indian-diplomat-devyani-khobragades-arrest-strip-search-earn-apology-from-us/
 claims Khobragade made her work long hours: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/lawyer-sangeeta-richard-did-not-extort-money-from-devyani-khobragade/articleshow/27674269.cms
 blackmail: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/devyani-khobragade-case-maid-tried-to-blackmail-diplomat-says-government/articleshow/27637179.cms
 December 17, 2013: https://twitter.com/Vidyut/statuses/412887223239856128
 #India: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23India&src=hash
 December 18, 2013: https://twitter.com/mg2411/statuses/413194552116137984
 nine million: http://jyotipandey.org/calls-for-legislation-to-protect-domestic-workers-in-india/
 domestic workers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_worker
 remain illusive to them: http://thealternative.in/inclusivity/indias-domestic-worker-down-on-her-knees-and-mostly-out/
 Draft National Policy for Domestic Workers: http://www.sarkaritel.com/indispensable-domestic-workers-finally-get-recognition/
 deferred the proposal: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/government-defers-national-policy-for-domestic-workers/392150-3.html
 #Khobragade: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Khobragade&src=hash
 December 19, 2013: https://twitter.com/AnannyaBhattach/statuses/413551322109988864
 Vidyut: http://aamjanata.com/value-domestic-worker/
 December 18, 2013: https://twitter.com/SellingViolets/statuses/413332825208004609
 Kamayani Bali Mahabal: http://www.kractivist.org/india-give-the-bai-a-break-international-domestic-workers-network-idwn/
 Shashank Sahay: http://mowingthelaw.blogspot.com/2012/04/bringing-domestic-workers-within-ambit.html
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