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Working Conditions of Female Domestic Workers in Delhi It is a universally observed that in a society which is characterised by gender segregation and

social stratification, certain sections unfortunately occupy a subordinate position. Indian constitution guarantees democracy and confers the right of equality to all strata . But the reality is that this guarantee and right of equality have not reached many lower sections of society. It is those people who struggle, are impoverished, alienated and concerned with basics for survival. The case of the domestic workers is an evidence to the fact that despite the guaranteed constitutional rights their struggle for equality and survival continues.

It is disheartening to note that domestic workers as a part of unorganised work force remain the most exploited ones even after five decades of independence. There are many evidences to indicate that over a period of time domestic work has become more feminised . Occupational segregation based on gender has been a global phenomenon . That is the reason why in the past few years gender based segregation has been a most commonly shared concern among researchers and social activists. As far as Indian scenario is concerned , we find through the statistics that women workers constitute only one third of the total workforce in India. The census of 1991 shows that number of women workers in India is 91 million out of a total workforce of about 315 million. Majority of these women are engaged in the unorganised sectors such as agriculture, cotton and tea plucking, pottery, handloom, construction and domestic services.To substantiate the fact , Pareira s (1984) study reveals that 78% of domestic helpers in 12 cities were female. In another study by Dighe and Choudhury (1988) it was found that there was as increase of 21.3% in the number of female workers in the Union Territory of Delhi from 1971 to 1981. These women who are occupied in domestic work sector belong to the lowest stratum of society and are often considered as cheap labour.

In the recent past the trend shows that all big cities of country have become the centres to recruit poor women as domestic workers, Delhi being no exception. The non-availability of job in rural or tribal areas facilitate continuous supply of women workers to Delhi and other cities. A major reason for this being a sharp increase of middle class women in employment. These middle class employed women have shifted their household workload to the poor working women as their maids . In some cases it is seen that the middle and upper classes in order to keep their upward mobility and status symbol have withdrawn themselves from household duties.

The increasing demand of domestic workers in Delhi has played a major role in migration of women from far flung rural or tribal areas. Most of the women who migrate to Delhi are from poor families and are illiterate. Their lack of education and skill make their choice very limited and when they come to big cities such as Delhi they have to face number of problems and because of their inexperience and lack of skill they become easy victim of exploitation.

The existing problems of domestic workers have been studied by many researchers, social activists and voluntary organizations at different levels. But they have not succeeded in providing a feasible solution to the problem. Perhaps lack of a common perspective in this area is a main cause for it. Since the problems of women domestic workers are multifaceted , it should be studied holistically covering economic ,legal, social, physical and psychological aspects. For this, it is immensely needed to have an integrated approach to understand the issue and it is also important to develop a collective programme to improve their social status and working condition. Keeping this in view a one-day seminar was jointly organised by Deshkal and FES on Working conditions, coping strategy and legal status of Female Domestic workers in Delhi on 12th October, 2002. This was attended by many researchers, members of voluntary organization, social activists and some domestic workers of Delhi.

This book comes as a collection of papers presented in this seminar. The papers included in this book focus our attention on various issues that are of considerable significance in understanding the problems of domestic workers in Delhi. Each paper represents a distinct approach to this issue yet share a common concern for the domestic workers.

In the first chapter Sanjay Kumar has sketched the outline of the seminar and has discussed basic issue involved in this whole problem. He suggests four focal points to deal with the problem such as :

Provision of registration Inclusion of the minimum wages collaboration and networking and collective bargaining. Leela Kasturi in her paper discusses the issue of migration related to female domestic workers of Delhi. She has argued that migration among the poor domestic workers is sought as a coping strategy for the survival of the families.

The paper also tells about the mental trauma faced by migrant women. The paper highlights their social economic and psychological aspect of the problem in a detailed and effective manner.

Pravin Sinha in his paper meticulously discusses total employment scenario of women in India. He mentions many reasons of urban migration most important being the mass poverty and high level of illiteracy. He also suggests empowerment of domestic women and skill development as a two important remedial measures to deal with the problem .

Alex Ekka s paper focuses mainly on the migration of tribal women to the urban centres. The paper mentions various problems faced by these women in Delhi. He suggests ameliorative measures in the interest of domestic workers and action plan for the future.

Neetha N s paper talks about two important aspects social networking and identity formation . Social Networking takes place both before and after the migration. After the migration, social networking plays a major role in overcoming their social and psychological insecurities and low socio economic status.

Two other papers by Smita Snehi and representatives of ANKUR respectively discuss various problems being faced by women domestic workers who are displaced to the new resettlement colonies of Delhi.

The real life experience of some women domestic workers quoted in these two papers makes it easier for us to comprehend their difficulties. It also gives a deeper understanding of their lives.

It is agreed by all the authors of the papers that a major hurdle in providing a solution to the problem is because of absence of a legal protection system. Seema Durrani s paper is useful to know the legal rights available to the women domestic workers.

Taken together the papers included in this book represent a modest beginning of efforts to understand the major problems of domestic workers. It is encouraging that all the papers also draw our attention towards the possible ways of intervention to improve their condition.

Some immediate interventions can be made at the following levels :-

The organisation of domestic workers among themselves is very important. A systematic mobilisation is needed to help them in making their own associations and unions so that they can share some solidarity and build their own leadership. There is a need to create public opinion on behalf of domestic workers to grant them the status of workers and dignified working conditions. A proper mutual dialogue may be useful in developing a suitable legislative mechanism. The problems of women domestic workers have still not received adequate attention by researchers, members of voluntary organisations and other social activists as yet. A collaboration frequent interaction and wider networking with the people and organisations working on the similar issue is required to intensity the movement of improving the overall condition of domestic workers. There is also an urgent need to sensitise the wider society regarding their attitude towards ServantMaster relationship and change it into a respectable Employee Employer relationship. Therefore it is extremely important to create an environment where the domestic workers may enjoy their rights, duties and interests like other segments of the society.

Living Conditions of Migrant Bihari Labourers in Delhi

Plight of Construction Labourers in North-East A large number of urban centres have emerged all round the world in the process of industrialization and urbanization. It has brought similar impact in different parts of India. Both the processes involve heavy construction work. Factory buildings, accessory and ancillary buildings, government offices, roads, railway tracks and entire township need to be erected and constructed. Construction works require various kinds of skilled and unskilled workers like kulis, beldars, rajmistris, painters, badhais, bandhanis, sanitary workers,plumber etc. These workers are spread across the width and length of the country, however, they are drawn in large numbers, through pull and push factors to the emerging and flourishing industrial and urban centres. So, these centres have huge concentration of construction workers.

These construction workers may or may not be migrant workers but they have maximum mobility because of the nature of their occupation. They are always on move from one work-site to another after the construction work at a site is over. These workers also migrate from backward/small industrial, urban and commercial centres to developed and big industrial, urban and commercial centres. The development of a particular urban centre also depends on its political importance. Political importance boosts up industrial, infrastructure development process, this in turn boosts up construction works.

Though they are part and parcel of the large streams of workers, their problems and woes are, in fact, continuation of the problems and woes faced by the workers of other sectors. However, the nature of work, problems and disposition of construction workers are quite different in degree and quality. This is because of various reasons.

These workers fall in the category of unorganized sector. Though this predicament is not exclusive to them, however, highly disorganized and fragmented state hamper their bargaining power and fight against injustice. Neither their job nor their work at a particular site is permanent or of a perennial nature. When construction starts at any place, these workers are hired on daily or monthly or may be on contract basis. The duration and security of their employment depend upon the kind of employment they enter into. It may last for days, for weeks, for months and may be, if they are fortunate, for a year so. After that they need to look for another site and employment. So, neither the work site is fixed nor the employment is permanent. May be they have their own sources and network and channel of information and employment, but this doesn t lessen their problems and difficulties. This predicament creates lot of hassles for them and provides sufficient grounds for their exploitation by the employers.

Being part of unorganized sector of labourers, they lose in bargaining for fair wages. They are not paid minimum wages; even the agreed wages are not paid in time. Even after the construction work is over, substantial due remains with the builders or the contractors, who are always on the look for devouring these due wages. Moreover, their working time and hours are not well regulated. They do not get overtime rates for excess work.

They work under very hazardous conditions. The working conditions and the facilities provided at the sites are far from satisfactory. Safety conditions and measurers are hardly met. In case of accident, there is, in general, no provision for financial and medical aid. It is up to the workers themselves to arrange for the treatment. There is no scheme like ESI coverage for them. In the extreme cases like death, no body owns the responsibility. Apart from these, there is no recreational facilities, no availability of drinking water, toilets, canteens etc. In big cities, like Delhi, they face another big problem of commuting from one place to other. They have to commute on their own. Travelling from the place of living to the work site and then back to the living place eat much into their time, money and energy. The commutation is not even smooth. Therefore they have much of leisure to spend with family, and less of money and energy to cater the needs of family members.

If the workers are female, the problems at work site and while commuting gets compounded and multiplied. More so if they are pregnant or having small children. There is no system at all to take care of

these children at work site. And they just cannot take leave out of work during this period lest they would face extreme financial problems.

Then, living conditions are no way better than the working conditions. It will not be entirely wrong to say that the situation is still worse. They are destined to live in slums where one does not get proper (at all) civic amenities. The surroundings are totally unhygienic. There are no proper facilities for drainage, toilet, potable water, electricity, recreation etc. There are no local medical facilities, hospital, school and fair price shop. They need to struggle quite a lot to get ration cards, they hardly avail the facility of banking services, for postal services they have to travel to far away localities. For all these reasons, it is very difficult for them to maintain healthy community life. Most of the time construction workers are forced to live nearby or at the work site. At these sites living conditions/lack of civic and other facilities are even more appalling.

In the era of liberalization and globalization, due to higher rate of economic growth, the construction sector too has got a boost. Irrespective of occasional slumps in the economy or in construction works, the sector is going through a faster growth. Apart from old / traditional urban/ industrial centres, new industrial/urban centres have appeared on the map where construction works are going on large scale. Expanding and fast growing construction sector and, in general, lack of greater employment opportunity elsewhere has drawn large number of workers in this sector. There are more than 20 million of construction workers in India at present. Cities, like Delhi alone has around more than 600 thousand of them. Apart from metros other cities, like Jamnagar in Gujarat, Guwahati & Shillong in the NorthEast are also expanding at fast rate.

Besides the problems and woes discussed above, the construction workers have no social security & benefits in terms of labour welfare measures & provisions. They don't have provisions like pension and insurance schemes, maternity leave, accident and death claims, concession loans and financial aid for children's education and medical needs. The struggle to get these rights compounded also because of the nature of employment in this sector, as no particular builder and contractor provides perennial kind of employment. This is not to undermine the problem if we say, under this situation it is really difficult to implement benefits like maternity leave. However, nowadays the construction workers are rising to the occasion and are organizing themselves and agitating to get all these benefits. They are becoming aware of their overdue rights and benefits. The attention of the government has also been drawn towards their plights and it is doing its own bit, albeit at a very slow pace. Recently, in 1996, the central government has enacted a few laws for construction workers in order to ameliorate their situation. However, this is just an initial and small step.

The government has given the right to get registered to these workers. The process of getting registered is not easy and workers friendly. However, once registered, they are entitled to a number of benefits like, pension after the age of 60, concession loans for house, group insurance, financial aid for dependents, children's education etc. Still there is long way to go.

Conclusion and Recommendation Imphal

A thorough analysis of primary level data revealed that in Imphal more than two third of the construction workers belonged to the home state of Manipur. Majority of construction workers was of Maiteis community, who was the inhabitants of plain land of Manipur, popularly called Imphal Valley. Maiteis' main occupation is agriculture and allied activities. There was hardly any social hierarchy among Maitei societies. As a result agrarian labour it is still a rare phenomenon all over Manipur. Every peasant is a worker and every woman is a weaver as well in the state. Wages labour was still not taken in high spirit in Manipur Society. Handicrafts and its related activities was an important occupation after agriculture in Manipur. Over the years the above two sectors of economic activities faced severe challenges from large-scale production and as a result its scope shrunk day by day. Closure of Imphal Yarn bank and failure of cooperative movement aggravated this problem. As a result it became uneconomic and compelled a large number of women to search for other jobs. A good number of men were already thrown out of agriculture due to lack of infrastructure facilities as well as steep growth of population. Therefore a large number of people came to construction work because it was the only employment generation field other than rickshaw pulling which, was almost monopolized by Muslim Community of the Valley. These construction workers were facing a lot of problems. Basic question for them was the question of social dignity. As wage labourship is considered to be against dignity among Maiteis no construction worker dare to be recognized as wage labour. At many occasions, if they were at any public place they covered their faces with cloth to hide their recognition. It weakens their bargaining capacity. Hence, they were bound to work on lower wages.


It was found that in Itanagar most of the migrant workers especially interstate migrants were living in rented houses or jhuggi-jhopari constructed by themselves on government land. The relationship among migrant workers was quite friendly and harmonious. But this was not so with local workers. Local

workers were not taking the work seriously and honestly and at many a time their visit at work-site was for merely attendance sake. They were used to get their wages by muscle flexing or by threatening to the officers/officials.

Hindi language is frequently used by workers to interact among themselves and even with local people. None of them participated in local festivals and hardly anybody knew local language. However, they agreed that tribals had no interest in manual labour so there was no question of any acrimony between the local and outsiders.

The availability of infrastructure and services related to sanitation and health were measurably missing at work-sites and in such a situation female workers were the real sufferers. It was found that no worker was member any Political Party. But they agreed that most of them were members of Arunachal Pradesh PWD Workers Union. However, they complained those casual ones.

Workers were aware of some of their rights related to their work. Almost all the workers had their ration cards, but few of them answered in affirmative regarding their names in the Union pays more attention to regular employees rather than the voter list. They complained that most of the workers had their names included in the voter s list but it was struck off due to some unknown reasons. No proper toilet facility was provided at the work-site. Drinking water was available at the work-site through taps. About 20% of the workers were female, but no extra facility was available to them. Contractor did not like pregnant women and retrenched them ruthlessly. Threat of molestation was reported by many of them.

None of the workers was involved in political or trade union activities. None of the workers was found aware of his right as a construction worker. Most of them reported hat their economic condition had been changing positively but they were not assured of better future because of working opportunity shrinking. None of them were provided skill promotion training, which they anticipated from government side with regularization of work and availability of all facilities available to permanent government employee of his category.

None help was available to the workers for education of their children or for the health measures of their family members. All the workers were sending their children to government schools and spending 5-15% of their income over it. For health measures of their family members, they were spending a handsome amount.


Most of the construction workers in Guwahati at both the construction sites i.e. Indian Oil Building and KVIC were not aware about the aspects of workers rights. At both the working sites it was differential wages rate for skilled and unskilled workers. Unskilled workers were paid rupees 60-70 and skilled workers rupees 100-110 a day. No Weekly leave was provided to than however they were allowed to take leave at their will but no payment was made for the leave.

The workers reported that the working relation with contractor and other staffs was good and congenial. The wages were paid in time and nobody was forced to do extra work. He paid the full amount of treatment in case of minor injuries and sickness but no payment was made for the leave. In the name of toilet and related infrastructure, very little facility was available. A few Katcha latrines were made for them in a corner of the work-site. A hand pump was installed very near to the hut and its water was used for all purposes. Electricity was available to the work-site. The work-site was fenced with high brick walls but no security arrangement was available there. There was no display of board at the work-site. Workers were not given any wages slip and they had not even seen any Master roll Register. The contractor denied showing us this register too. Workers had no membership with any Trade Union or Political Party. Bengali workers did not know Assamese but Assamese itself is so close to Bengali that they need no other medium to interact. Their culture was also very similar and they had no barrier except religion to mix-up with each other.

Majority of the workers, who were new to this profession, reported their economic condition better over years due to joining construction work. Almost all of the workers reported their children reading in government school and no aid was being availed by the employer in this context. They were not getting any material help for health purposes of the family as well. They were spending 5-10% of their income on education of their children and rupees 500-2500 on health measures of the family. The workers living away from the family sent almost all the saving to their family and they had no local Bank or Post Office Accounts.

Two Trade Unions viz. Refinery Thekedari Mazdoor Union and Refinery Thekedari Sharmik Union were active among workers with almost equal strength of membership. Approximately 50% of the workers were members of these two Unions. The workers gave the credit of weekly, casual and medical leave provisions as Tiffin Allowance provided to them. They reported the Mazdoor Union members were more honest and sincere than its counterpart.

Workers stated that retrenchment is a major issue for them. If they are absent of even for a day or two without information, the contractor trice to retrench them. However, this activity is on decrease due to pressure of the unions that calls for strike in such cases. It also came to notice that verbal abuse and eve teasing was frequent with female workers, however not even a single case of physical harassment has been registered. Workers complained that labour inspectors come to the refinery but they never consult workers. And if workers complain labour office regarding any case, they never take any action. Workers treated their work at par with regular workers and demanded regularization of their job.


The construction workers at both the sites viz. University Site and Secretariat belonged to different socio-economic and religious group. A section of these workers were also coming from several neighbouring states. Most of them inhabited near the site where wire fencing existed to protect building material. No female worker was employed. The accommodation for the workers was made of straw walls and roofing. Tap water was supplied there during one-hour morning and one-hour evening. Electric bulbs were available in their rooms. Nothing was charged for these facilities. Here again wages differentials were existing for different category of workers- for skilled workers the daily wages was rupees 100-110 and for unskilled workers it was rupees 60-70. No weekly holiday was rewarded to them and no overtime was payable for their half an hour work.

The respondents explained the ever-increasing gap and divide with local tribes especially Khasi as they feel that these outsiders were encroaching their rights in day to day activities. In the opinion of these workers they live here under great fear because Khasi people, who are natives of this area do not like then and try to drive them away from work.

Most of the workers accepted that they came to work at Shillong due to lack of sufficient works in their area and also due to better rate of wages at Shillong. And above all the climate of Shillong is very favorable for work. Workers accepted that most of the time they were paid wages in time on weekly basis.

No display board was available at the site. It also came to notice that workers were not given any wages slip and no muster role book was available at the site office. It was also observed that the workers did not know even ABC of their rights as construction workers. Nobody was active member of any Trade

Union or any political party. Indeed, some of the youngsters were active in cultural activities. Most of the workers agreed that their economic condition has been improved after coming to Shillong but they were not assured of their better future. Non of the workers was involved in political or Trade Union activities. Indeed all the Scheduled Tribes workers and most of the youngsters were active in cultural activities such as dance, music and songs.

Building and Other Construction Workers (RECS) Act, 1996

The present state of the implementation of the provisions of Building and Other Construction Workers (RECS) Act, 1996 in the North East states does not seem to be encouraging. According to the Act, agencies like Labour Commissioners and Provident Fund Commissioners even at the state levels have significant roles to play in the its execution, yet we did notice that these offices do not show much interest in these activities. Despite all the precautionary measures taken in the forms of annual or periodic returns, commencement /completion reports on works, application for license and inspection reports which are regularly submitted to labour offices, these do not undergo proper scrutiny and evaluation. These state level agencies too lack an effective mechanism to ensure the compliance of the Employee Provident Fund laws in respect to construction workers. In a similar way, the contract document prepared as per the labour laws are normally not implemented in true spirit by the contractor. We have found that the labour and wages bills of the worksite and their periodic reports submitted to the concerned labour offices often do not correspond with each other. Their licence secured under the CLR&A Act are also inconsistent with the above documents. Further, majority of the contractors do not submit fortnightly labour reports. In fact, the total wage cost based on the labour reports is much less than the specified amount in the contract. In fact, we hardly heard of any inspector visiting worksites in this region. These prevalent malpractices form gross violation of the minimum wage and equal remuneration acts for workers. Adding to the woes of workers, we noted that there was in most of the cases no provision of workmen s compensation insurance and making PF contribution. The provisions of facilities at the worksite for the workers are not up to the prescribed standards in the Act. They have not taken steps to form labour camps on an excuse that there is no sufficient space for such camps near the worksites in the region. There was no chart showing workers hours of work, nor was any provision of holidays for them. Even on-site facilities, such as; crche, canteen, toilets, and urinals are non-existent in almost all cases. The state level labour agency itself does not utilize the given powers it enjoys under the Act. It can take action against the contractor and enforce the terms of contract More often than not the inspecton report of the labour wing and those of state level offices are not acted upon. In this sense, they themselves lack will power to execute the labour laws. In some cases, as we heard, recommendations of the state level agency to persecute offenders in some cases did not meet favourable responses from the higher authorities.

Equally important is the factor of estimated costs of different components in construction projects. We have found, in the present study that the provisions of labour laws and those of the contract do not correspond with each other. According to a number of the contractors, it is difficult to meet the obligations of labour wages and social security within the allocated margin by principal employer for overheads and profits. Keeping in mind workers opinion, we can say that while finalizing the contract, the principal employer should give due consideration to the cost of labour wages and social security. They should consider Labour Wages and Social Security as a physical component of the project to be easily supervised. We feel that the central labour agency should shoulder maximum responsibility to monitor the implementation of labour provisions in states of the North- East. It can alone ensure the benefits of labour laws actually reach the construction workers. Recommendations It is true that there are various reasons behind the plight of construction workers especially in NE-India but it is not impossible to overcome these problems. Deshkal recommends some important suggestions to be carried out for the amelioration of economic condition of construction workers in Northeast. These are listed below.

Every construction worker should be registered with labour department and this department should have all necessary information related to them. Constitution and functioning of Workers Welfare Board' should be time bound as any delay in its formation directly goes against the interest of workers. Special groups should be formed to conduct skill enhancing and awareness generation campaign and they should be made responsible to contact all the registered workers. If possible, a permanent institute should be set in each district and compact classes should be organized to provide the workers theoretical knowledge as well as their rights with concerning laws and acts. Formation of Trade Union should not only be the rights of regular workers but it should be made for those constructions workers where certain numbers of them were supposed to work for certain period. Revision of wages rate for casual workers should be made time bound and proper dearness allowance should be fixed to avoid any decrease in their earnings. States should be instructed not to fix minimum rate of wages lower than the Central Government fixation. As makeshift arrangements for workers stay in and around the work site render them vulnerable to all sorts of problems, there is pressing need to arrange for their alternative accommodation. Construction workers should be provided land with concession rate and subsidized building materials to construct their own accommodation.

NGO's or other Social Institutions should be encouraged to conduct social awareness programmes to establish the dignity of manual labour in the societies. Some specific rules should be introduced to avoid tension between local and outside workers. Make serious efforts to sensitize the engineering wing to the need for labour welfare, as they are the closest governmental representative to the construction labourers at the worksites. Equip central and state level agencies with more powers to deal with recalcitrant contractors. Sufficient allocation of funds for labour wages and social security in contracts. Build a Forum that can raise issues of construction workers welfare in the civil society of North- East. Training Programmes for two groups separately with an objective to generate awareness about the main thrust of the Act-I. government officials; II. Labour Union, III. Labour Boards. Keeping in view the gravity of construction workers plight, North Eastern states should take every step to effectively implement the Act, of 1996. Private security guards in Delhi During the last decade there has been mushrooming growth of security agencies in Delhi and other major urban centres of the country. As per information provided by the owners and officials of different security agencies, newspapers, magazines, views of the experts and academician engaged in the study of unorganized sector workers etc. there are more than 3,500 registered and semi-registered security agencies in Delhi engaging more than 50,000 security guards. Apart from providing security to multinational companies, consulates, corporate offices, industrial units, residential apartments and VIP residences, they also engage themselves in areas of fire protection, surveillance services, cash van services, training services, security audits, house keeping services, utility services etc.

Security guards in their uniform with the non existent power creates a false notion about them as belonging to formal sector/organized sector of labour category but the fact seems to be that working and living conditions of majority of these workers are even worst than a daily wage labour. Survival and livelihood of security guards in Delhi still revolves round the minimum wages prescribed by the Delhi Government that is rupees 2592 per month. Looking at the number of security agencies and security guards as also their role in providing security to different sections of society, it is astonishing that there is no specific government department to register, provide direction and regulate these agencies. There is hardly any law or ordinance to safeguard their interest.

Workers drawn from different states are engaged in this profession and hence majority of them are migrant. The basic difference between those employed as security guards from other workers is their

socio-economic and educational background. A good number of security guards are educated up to graduate and postgraduate level. Besides, a significant number of them are retired defence officials.

Majority of security agencies does not follow the basic rules and regulations of labour departments while employing security guards. The terms and conditions related to employment are based on very ordinary contract, which leads to continuous oppression and dismissal. In a large number of cases security guards are not being even provided uniform by their employers. They work upto twelve hours a day, for a meager amount as low as rupees 1,200 a month. They are rarely allowed to take leave even for a day in a month. Single day leave in emergency period without prior intimation often leads to dismissal from the service. Before joining an agency security guards have to pay rupee 700 on an average for dress, which has the market price of not more than rupees 200. A guard is often dismissed from service just to recruit another one to grab rupees 700 of dress money, which fetch rupees 500 average for every new recruitment. Once dismissed from service they have to run from pillar to post to clear their dues with the respective agency.

Most of the security guards are trained to just salute. Even with uniform and a stick in their hands they feel insecure and powerless. Whatever the word security guard means they just think themselves as mere watchman. A big proportion of security guards belong to a better socio-economic and educational backgrounds and they hide their true identity with the people back at home. Contrary to the popular notion of security guards as being people with power they feel themselves at the lowest strata in power hierarchy.

Deshkal Society undertook the employment survey among security and their owners keeping in mind the miserable working and living conditions of private security guards in Delhi. We planned to unravel these conditions and have come out with suggestions and recommendations to improve their working and living conditions.

Conclusions and Recommendations Conclusions

Security through private guards has become a common phenomenon especially in urban part of India. Similarly it is very common in mega city like Delhi. One can easily spot a private security at all nook and corners of Delhi in their variety of colorful uniforms. In the last decade the number of such guards and agencies employing them had grown with an accelerated pace. Delhi is no exception to that.

The information collected with the help of owners and officials of different security agencies, newspapers, magazines, views of the experts and academicians engaged in the study of unorganized sector workers reveal that there are more than 3,500 registered and un-registered security agencies in Delhi engaging more than 50,000 security guards. Apart from providing security to multinational companies, consulates, corporate offices, industrial units, residential apartments and VIP residences, they also engage themselves in areas of fire protection, surveillance services, cash van services, training services, security audits, house keeping services, utility services etc.

Security guards in their uniform with the non existent power creates a false notion about them as belonging to formal sector/organized sector of labour category but the fact seems to be that working and living conditions of majority of these working class are even worst than a daily wages labour. Survival and livelihood of security guards in Delhi still revolves around the minimum wages prescribed by the Delhi Government that is rupees 2592 per month. But many of them are getting lesser salary of the minimum wages prescribed by Delhi Government.

If one see the number of security agencies and security guards and their role in providing security to different section of society, it is astonishing that there is no specific government department to register, provide direction and regulate these agencies for better working environment. There is hardly any act or ordinance to safeguard their interest. A big majority of these guards are migrant. They come from all sections of society and a good number of them having educational degree as graduate to post graduate. A section of these working communities also come from retired defence officials.

In most of the cases the security agencies do not follow the basic rules and regulations of labour departments while employing them as security guards. The terms and conditions related to employment are based on very loosely defined contract, which leads to continuous oppression and unjust dismissal from their job. They work more than eight hours a day and in many instances they are getting a meager amount of rupees 1200 a month. Only a handful number of security agencies provide dresses to their employees. There are wide variations from one-security agencies to another when the question come to providing necessary facilities related to their jobs.

At the time of joining an agency an applicant is asked to pay rupee 700 on an average for dress. The dress provided to them in lieu of rupees 700 is not priced for more than rupees 200 in market and thus with each recruitment the agency or some person well connected to the agency fetches the balance of rupees 500 , claims a security guard. He further complains, A guard is often dismissed from service just

to recruit another one to grab rupees 500 in name of dress. Once dismissed from service they run from pillar to post to clear their dues with the agency and often have to forget it forever.

Most of the security guards are trained to just salute. Even with uniform and a stick in their hands they feel insecure and powerless. Whatever the word security guard means they just think themselves as mere watchman. A big proportion of security guards belong to a better socio-economic and educational backgrounds and they hide their true identity with the people back at home. Contrary to the popular notion of security guards as people with power but they find themselves at the lowest strata in power hierarchy.

The important findings of the study are summarized in the following pages:

In terms of gender distribution there are dominance of male community that comprises 97% of the total respondents covered in the sample. It shows that the private security guard is a male dominated occupation. Majority of the guards belong to young age group. More than 70% of the respondents come from below 40 years of age group. One fifth of them i.e. 20% belong to the age group of above 55 years. Majority of the respondents (84%) were married and only a small proportion of 15% were never married. only 1% belonged the category that were either divorced/ separated or widowed/widower. Prior to opting their profession as security guards 34% of them were engaged in agriculture and related activities. It is followed by not engaged in any work or looking for some kind of engagement that comprises 20%. Only 4% of the total respondents were engaged in some kind of service related jobs. In the total sample only 3% of the guards were found illiterate. About 13% of them had education upto primary level followed by 32% middle pass, 11% were 12th pass, 9% were graduates and other higher qualifications. The social composition of the security guards working in Delhi has a dominance of general category (54%) i.e. upper caste community, which comprises more than half of the total sample size. Another 27% was from other backward community followed by 13% SCs and 2% STs. Three quarters of the security guards hail from U.P (39%) and Bihar and Jharkhand (37%). The third major category is from other states (17%), which cover all other states and UTs except UP, Bihar, Rajasthan (3%), M.P. (2%) and Delhi (2%). One-third of the respondents were having annual household income in the range of rupees 15,00030,000. Over one-third (35%) was in the range of rupees 30,000-45,000.

About 42% of the respondents were having pucca house while 39 % were having their houses as semipucca. Over one-sixth (17%) was living in Jhuggi-Jhoparis. While the rest 2 % were living in other categories of houses. Among the total respondent who replied that they lived in rented house, 60% of them were paying less than rupees 500 per month. Similarly another 35% were paying a sum of rupees 500-1000 followed by 4% who were paying in the range of rupees 1000-2000. Almost three-fourth of the security guards were not having ration cards. This facility was availed by only 28% of them. Only 24% of them happily said that they do have Voter ID. But two third of them (74%) were not having the same. Of the total respondents 93% of them have taken loans for their households for which a number reasons were cited. They took loans for compensating household expenses, for marriage of family members, for paying medical expenses, for performing funeral rites etc. The rest 7% of the respondents were not having any loan. About sources of loan half of the respondents said that they took it from their relatives while 36% went to their friends for this purpose. The moneylenders were also approached by 2% of the guards. Almost half of the guards took loan for sustaining household expenses followed by 25% of them for remitting it to their family members in their villages and hometowns. When the question was asked about the number of dependents on them, there was wide variation in the responses. About 41% of the respondents replied that they were having 4 dependents and followed by 31% as having 5 dependents persons, 11% were having 6 dependents, 10% were having 3 dependents, 4% were having 7 dependents and rest 3% were having 1 dependent. The table given below has the detail of dependent persons. Reasons cited for joining security forces was the poor economic condition 72% of the respondents. Other reasons for joining this job were non-availability of any other options left besides choosing this field, socials prestige, glamour etc. Among the total respondents more than half (54%) got the information about job availability of guards through their relatives followed by friends (37%), contractors etc. Of the total respondents a large majority (97%) were not aware of any kind of bribe or favour required at the time of joining. About 27% of the total respondents were getting a monthly salary between rupees 1500 to 1800. Similarly 24% of them were getting a salary in between rupees 2500-3000 while 20% of the respondents said that they were getting around rupees 1800to 2100 and another 19% were getting a sum of rupees between 2100-2500.

Analysis of data shows that more than two third (78%) of the total respondents were facing no problem from any front while performing the duty as a security guard. Salary not in time was a problem for 9% of the respondents. About 7% of them were getting less salary. Salary not given or it was given very late was the response of 1% respondents. A big majority (92%) of the respondents said that there was not any problem at the place of work. But 6% of them said that the authorities shabbily treated them where they were working. Most of the guard serves in the private houses (33%). The next place were they are mostly serving are variety of offices (19%). Similarly placement at shops was replied by 12%. In university/colleges 8% of them were performing their duties. More three fourth (87%) of the total respondents said that there is no desire for the preference of place of work / duty. And the remaining (13%) said that they were interested to work nearby his residents, some good private offices, some prosperous houses etc. Of the total respondents majority of them (96%) were of the opinion that they had to work more that eight hours a day. On the other hand only 4% of them replied that they perform only eight hours a day duty. A big majority of the respondents put their opinion that there was no provision of leave in their job. A small proportion of them were getting this facility. For those who were availing the leave facility 92% of them said that they got four days leave per month. Another 7% were getting between 5-6 days leave a month and 1% did not give any opinion on this. 67% of the respondents were not availing any bonus facility. Only 5% of the respondents were getting the pension facility and the rest 95% of them replied against it. Of the total only 9% of the respondents were availing insurance facility A small number of respondents (10%) put their opinion in affirmative as they were getting the dress from their employers and the rest 90% were against it. About one fifth (21%) of the respondents said that they were provided medical facility whenever they require and most of these expenses were borne by their employers. On the other hand 79% of them said against any kind of such facility. Average distance from place of work to the place living was 6 kilometers. But it has wide variation as 45% of the respondents said that the distance of working place from the place of residents was 1-4 kilometers and followed by 4-8 kilometers by 22%, 8-12 kilometers by 7%, more than 12 kilometers by 12% and the rest 1% said that it was less than 1 kilometers from their residence.

About mode of travel from the place living to the place of work 36% of the respondents said that they go these places on foot. Similarly 37% travel by bicycle and followed by motorcycle 20%, bus 5% and the rest cover this distance by agency s vehicles and other modes of transport. Average time consumed in traveling from place of work to their residence was less than 1 hour. About 45% of the respondents said that they reach at their work place in less than half an hour. Similarly 44% said that it take between half an hour to one hour and the rest put their opinion as it takes between 1 to 4 hours. About monthly expenditure on commuting it was found that about half of the respondents (48%) had to invest less than rupees 100 only. It was followed as 44% of them pay between rupees 100-200 and the pay for it between rupees 200-500 on it. About three fourth of the respondents were of the opinion that they had to follow the given code of rules and regulations and rest replied in negative on this issue. When the question was put before them as why they did not sign any paper before joining the job, there were varying responses. About 80% of them did not disclose anything, followed by 6% as not asked for this, 5% as asked but employer refused, 8% as not aware etc. More than 50% of the respondents were found aware about the minimum wages act of Government of Delhi and the rest did not have any idea about it. About 64% of the guards were known to the contractual about act and the rest were ignorant about it. Only 10% of the total respondents were some how were having some idea regarding interstate migration act. A meager 13% of the respondents had attended any kind of training programme after joining their job and the big did not found such opportunity. More than 80% of the respondents do not any benefit at the time of any mishap as against on 20% get some short of benefit which was not enough as replied by them. At the time of harassment and punitive action taken by the employers the security guards take help from local leaders, friends, lawyers, friends etc. But it was also found that a big proportion of them do not go to any such places as they have the fear of losing their job. A quarter of them said that there was no use of going anywhere for solving the problem related to harassment, as there was always danger of losing their jobs. Another similar proportion of them said that we do not know where to go for this. Similarly 25% replied that they did not find time for such activities. There was mixed responses about the migration to Delhi for searching a job. About 64% of them said that their relatives in all respects for migrating to Delhi and getting this job helped them. Similarly 32%

of them said that they were cooperated and help by their friends in this regards. The rest of the respondents gave their opinion as they got help from contractors, placement cells and other sources. Majority of them (60%) said that they got their jobs within two months after coming to Delhi. In the same manner 38% of them said that it took less than one month in getting this and the rest 2% of them suggested a time period of between 2-4 months. Regarding the possession of any professional skill it was found that in majority cases it was not there. A quarter of them (27%) were having the skill as PSG training and a meager 4% were trained in firing pistol or gun. Recommendations Based on the above statement regarding the status of private security guards some important recommendations are being put forward to bring necessary improvement for a better and sustainable working environment for this working community. It is as follows:

There is urgent need of a viable act and legislation to safeguard the right and bring improvement in the working environment of these security guards. This will provide a shield to them so that they put forward their grievances at a suitable platform. A proper directive and guideline should be given to all the security agencies employing these guards so that any discrimination may be avoided. Seeing the mammoth growth in the size and number of these private security guards and the agencies employing them, there should provision for their stay and living facility. There should a compulsory provision so that all the private security guards should get a minimum salary as prescribe and enacted by the government of Delhi. Although, this act is in force but a few security agencies are following it. Besides the above security guards should be provided the following facilities: Conveyance for traveling Provision for over time for each working hour Salary should be given in time. There is wide spread resentment among these guards as they get their salary at irregular interval and many of theme find it tough to carry on their house expenses. Arrears should be given in time at regular interval. Bonus should be given on a fixed date to all the security guards. Job appointment letter should be provided to all the recruits.

There should be provision of holiday on the line of Delhi Government rules and regulations. In a number of cases it has been found that there is hardly any holiday. For casual absentee economical punishment should not avoided There should be time bound increase in the salary of these security guards. Bonus and medical facility also be given to these guards Guards should be provided uniform free of cost from the employer side. There should also be the provision of loans whenever these guards feel so in the hour of urgent need. National Domestic Workers' Union: Providing Relief to Victims of Oppression Purpose and History of the Union National Domestic Workers' Union (NDWU) has been mobilising unorganised workers around the issues of housing, employment and public transportation for the last few decades. We strongly believe that no individual or group can mobilise all the workers of the unorganised sector around a single issue or question.

Unorganised workers account for approximately 93 per cent of the total workforce in India, and the number is on the rise. Among these workers, the diversity and nature of their occupations means that the problems and challenges faced by any one group of workers are generally exclusive to them. Both the sheer size of this workforce and its heterogeneity, therefore, make it impossible or rather, illogical for a single organisation or union to mobilise them as a whole. It was with this understanding that we took up the cause of organising the domestic workers under the aegis of a union.

The recent rise of domestic workers as a distinct workforce is closely intertwined with the processes of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation, which have deprived a large mass of people of their access to natural resources such as forests, land and the water. These efforts to empower capitalists to mine the ore and minerals from the land on which tribals live have led to the pauperisation of the tribal people. The tale of displacement is one of ruthless takeover of lands by corporate houses for mining and setting up special economic zones, reducing peasants to penury and destitution. The process has also been abetted by the increasing mechanisation of agricultural operations with the introduction of tractors, threshers and harvesters, which has resulted in a decrease in job opportunities for landless labourers. Currently, rural India is witnessing a serious crisis of livelihood for such deprived people, who for want of sustainable means of employment at home are forced to leave their homes and hearths and make a beeline for the big cities. Metros such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi and smaller cities such as Patna, Nagpur and Indore are some of their destinations. Sometimes, the search may take them as far off as the Gulf countries.

The other factor that contributes to the growth of the phenomenon of domestic workers is the fact that the middle class, the upper middle class and the elite living in cities find it hard to manage their domestic chores due to the increasing pressures of their own jobs. When they return home from their high pressure jobs, they can hardly spare time for their parents or children or household work. Sometimes, it is not so much a paucity of time that deters them from doing household jobs, but a simple matter of arrogance: washing linen, cleaning utensils, dusting and sweeping floors are considered undignified things to do. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the salary one earns and the indifference with which they treat domestic chores: the heftier the salary, the more indifferent towards housekeeping. When both the husband and the wife are working, they find it especially difficult to do without domestic help.

Demographically, the majority of domestic workers in Delhi are drawn from tribal dominant areas such as Jharkhand, Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Bhilwara in Rajasthan. Nepal also figures as a sizable supplier of domestic workers in India. Placement agencies have significant networks in these areas and through them make available domestic workers to the potential employers. Placement agencies are not, however, the sole supplier of domestic workers. There are informal networks, and a majority of domestic workers find their employers through their relatives.

The category of domestic workers includes such persons who offer their services to employers at their residence. The sector also includes 'housekeeping' workers, who are employed as cleaners at hospitals and institutions. A small number of domestic workers eke out an income by working part-time at two or more places. Often, such workers have a fixed work schedule and receive a certain amount of money for each job. However, the work profile of full-time domestic workers is seldom defined, making them prey to round-the-clock engagement. With work timings decided by the employer, they may be called by the employer at any time between 5 a.m. in the morning and 11-12 p.m. in the night. Such workers are expected to take care of chores such as sweeping and dusting along with the regular jobs such as washing the clothes and cleaning of utensils. That is to say, the full-time domestic worker must perform any work that an employer may demand. Thus, a domestic worker is asked to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner along with other tasks such as getting provisions from the market and taking care of the employer's parents or children. The hapless worker gets neither a weekly off nor annual leave to visit his/her home. Usually, full-time workers are subject to subhuman treatment at the hands of their employers, reducing them to the status of slaves. The amount of time such workers spend at the employer's home and the amount of work they do makes most common equations for determining remuneration demeaning.

Adding to their woes is the fact that they are contractual labourers. Rather than getting their wages directly from the employers for whom they work, they are paid through the agency of contractors, who, more often than not, get away with as much as half of the wages meant for the workers. For instance, a contractor receiving Rs 5,000 for the 'housekeeper' will give only Rs 2,500 or Rs 3,000 to the worker and will pocket the rest. The institutions/homes, with the overt or covert consent of the contractors, will keep these workers at their premises for 12 hours a day, in violation of the fixed hours of duty.

A resisting worker is often dumped by the employer with false charges of his or her being involved in a case of theft. In such cases, workers are known to face physical punishment at the hands of the employer, making the workers at times lose their patience. Women domestic workers share such travails; however, being female, they are also vulnerable to other ordeals. While in some cases sexual harassment may become a routine trauma for a female worker, she is generally reduced to a captive, not being allowed to meet people outside her employer's home. There have been reports of women domestic workers who, after becoming pregnant, have committed suicide to escape the stigma.

Illiterate and child domestic workers are all the more vulnerable. With an apathetic police and a blatant lack of any law to protect their rights, domestic workers seldom get justice in times of need. The legal measures employed by the police in the name of 'police verification' often end up being a shield for the employer.

Placement agencies are in the business only to make fast money. It is a simple deal for them: they take commission from both the domestic workers and the employers. The workers' interests hardly figure in their scheme of things. In some cases, such placement agencies have been involved in sexual harassment of female workers yet they are never booked for these crimes. Unfortunately, the fact that domestic workers do not constitute a cohesive group lets their oppressors go scot-free. This also, in part, explains the lack of an organised resistance to the problem.

It is precisely in view of these fault lines that we decided to organise a national union of domestic workers. The idea is to draw the attention to the cause and explore effective measures to provide relief to them.

Organising Domestic Workers and Its Difficulties We realised that the best way to approach domestic workers is to contact them at their residence. This was how we got to learn about their experiences and causes of displacement, their everyday struggles

to find a foothold in the city and the challenges faced in the new place of work. These relationships, built around individuals, gradually coalesced into a collective whole, which, in turn helped people to come together, cutting across barriers of regional biases and linguistic differences. Both men and women forged a common identity, leading to a vigorous campaign for membership. Members put us in contact with other workers, paving the way for the expansion of our union. However, it was not an easy time for us because the workers would not trust us; they also feared that they would lose their jobs if they joined the union. There also existed the age-old fissures of caste, religion, region and the languages, as well as gender inequality, preventing the workers from sharing a common platform. The local residents also posed a constant threat to our efforts because they saw unionising as a challenge to their continued supremacy over the local power relations.

Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers: Achievements The efforts at unionising domestic workers have yielded tangible results, leading to the consolidation of the workers into an organisation. The identity cards issued to the workers by the union have empowered the workers. They feel connected to a larger group with a distinct collective identity, which gives the workers a legitimacy to settle disputes with their employers on respectable terms. The employers now find it increasingly hard to get away with their whims. Clearly, the potential employer fears an organised intervention in the event of a dispute with the worker. There is now a national alliance of domestic workers, which is a collective of various organisations and groups working among the domestic workers in different cities across India. An initiative has also been launched to influence national policy measures on domestic workers under the aegis of this organisation. A memorandum has been submitted regarding the problems of domestic workers and an alternative draft Bill to the central ministry of labour. The union supports the proposed ILO Convention on domestic work, based on social, economic, cultural and gender equality.

Impact on Domestic Workers The activities taken up by the union have had a wide-ranging impact on domestic workers, irrespective of whether they have membership of the union or otherwise. They confide in the union on issues ranging from wages to family disputes. The membership card carries a promise of collective help, in case of any dispute or problem. For instance, recently some female workers approached us and shared their problems regarding the non-payment of their wages by the placement agencies. Acting on the complaints, the union took the matter to the police station and filed a report. Later, the placement agencies had the union office vandalised by their goondas; however, joint resistance by the members of the union created pressure on the police, compelling them to provide for the security for the union office. The success was clearly a result of the organised resistance of the workers.

Regulating domestic work Bringing home the bread New Delhi: The Karkardooma slum is hidden in plain sight. Tucked behind a billboard, makeshift houses of cinder blocks and corrugated steel crowd narrow lanes, just a short walk from the manicured gardens and three-storey bungalows of Anand Vihar, in the eastern part of Delhi. Small children play marbles under the watchful eye of the neighbours. Shobha Kumari, a resident of the slum, wakes up every day at 5.30 in the morning, cooks for her four children and husband and then leaves for work she is a parttime help.

Her actual home is Madhya Pradesh. The family moved to Delhi many years ago, like other families in similar circumstances, to look for a better existence. Unlike in the village, there are jobs aplenty for women like Kumari in the city, albeit poorly paid and with no security. By working at several homes in the neighbourhood and charging Rs. 200 per month for each of the services rendered sweeping and washing dishes, for instance these women have managed to survive outside of the network of placement agencies. In many instances, they are slowly replacing their husbands as primary bread earners. As a result, for the first time, married migrant women from rural India have become independent wage earners, a phenomenon that is triggering its own social dynamics and which offers yet another face of urban migration. The new bread earners

Although working part-time affords Kumari a certain degree of independence, her schedule is still largely dictated by her employers. There is no question of missing a day of work if she becomes sick. If you miss more than three days of work, they replace you, she says.

Part-time workers in Delhi are increasingly in demand, according to Bina Agarwal, director and professor of economics at the Institute of Economic Growth. Earlier you only had live-in domestic help, but now families are more nuclear, space is constrained, it s a much more fluid market, she says.

Still, while multiple part-time jobs offer the chance of higher wages, they come with job insecurity.

A yet-to-be-published study by the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST), a non-governmental organization (NGO), of 1,438 domestic workers living in the poorest areas of Delhi, has found that lack of

job security is only the first challenge. Low-caste workers can be prohibited from using their employer s toilets or drinking their water, notes Shrayana Bhattacharya, the author of the study. This results in a high level of urinary infections among women. In Delhi, ISST found that the majority of women interviewed reported bladder problems and nearly 40% said they feared to take sick leave. Because most also lack identification cards, they sometimes face police harassment, have trouble enrolling their children in school and are often unable to access government schemes. Part of the problem is that most domestic workers unless they ve had formal instruction from NGOs or others don t have any real understanding of their rights, according to Surabhi Mehrotra of Jagori, an NGO that works with domestic workers.

Most don t think of this as a form of work. They see it as an extension of something they do at home, she says. Before they can negotiate for their rights, they need to see themselves as workers.

There is also the risk of jeopardizing the job. Kumari, who has two boys and two girls, says the Rs. 2,500 she earns each month is the most secure source of income for the family. Although her husband, a cement pourer, earns more when he works, his income is project-based and uncertain. This is common to many poor families.

Of the husbands of domestic workers, surveyed by ISST in 117 slums in and around Delhi, one-third were casual labourers and the rest, either unemployed or in low-paying jobs as rickshaw pullers, cleaners and waste pickers. At the subsistence level, these women are a critical source of family income. There s some evidence to show that as women earn more, their husbands feel emasculated particularly if they are unemployed. There are also instances of some of the women, encouraged and emboldened by their own abilities, aspiring for more.

An exception

Radha Devi Verma sits shyly at the table at the house of one of her clients, beaming with quiet pride as she recounts her accomplishments.

Since migrating to Delhi 15 years ago from Uttar Pradesh to get a job, first as a part-time domestic worker and eventually a masseur, she s been able to fund an expensive surgery that may have saved her husband s life, paid for her mother-in-law s eye surgery, built a home in her village, and, though illiterate herself, put her four children, two boys and two girls, through school, married her eldest daughter off to a teacher, even presented her son-in-law with a motorcycle. Later this year, she plans to fund a religious festival in her home village.

Her husband has taken on household duties, including cooking, cleaning and childcare, she says, and is delighted that she is able to contribute so much to the family.

Verma s accomplishments represent an optimistic trajectory for women working as part-time maids and cleaners. The move to the city allowed her to break free of caste-restrictions and acquire new skills that would have been prohibited in the village. Eventually, while working as a cleaner at a beauty parlour, she learnt how to give head and body massages a profession looked down upon in her village and built up her own clientele. Her salary went from about Rs. 1,000 per month (as a domestic worker) to nearly Rs. 15,000 per month.

Still, Verma is mindful of the caste hierarchy, and is meticulously careful that word of her profession does not get back to her people.

In an ideal world, according to Reiko Tsushima, specialist on gender equality at the International Labour Organization, part-time domestic workers would all end up like Verma, starting with relatively unskilled labour, like mopping and sweeping, and eventually leading to more skilled professions cooking, caring for children or the elderly, or like Verma, becoming beauticians. However, this is more the exception than the rule.

According to Sanjay Kumar, regional director of Self Employed Women s Association (SEWA), Verma s experience is quite exceptional. There might be one woman in 100 like that, he says. Maybe two in 500. Without a catalyst, it s unlikely.

In an attempt to provide such a trigger, SEWA has been working in the slums of Delhi, Kerala and Gujarat, informing domestic workers of their rights, helping them to form unions; it will also, eventually, provide vocational courses.

Ranjana Kumari, president of Centre for Social Research, suggests that such unions help increase the opportunities available to part-time workers.

SEWA has successfully unionized at least 400 domestic workers in Kerala. Almost immediately, Kumar says, the women in the union were able to raise their wages by around 40%. They also learnt how to negotiate with their employers.

Today, most women have at least four days holiday per month. If they work for more than 3 hours, they are able to have tea or water breaks. Women who are sick can ask another member of the group to go work for them, so they will not lose their jobs. When they organize themselves, they have a platform to talk about their rights, Kumar says. Organizing is key to all of the rights they hope to access.

While the challenges of their work space are daunting, it is evident that their new-found social and economic empowerment is triggering aspirations among some or at least ensure it for the next generation. Shobha Kumari s dream is that her daughters will be educated , meaning literate (Kumari is not), and capable of making a living independently as skilled workers.

The ISST survey found that although three out of four women surveyed in Delhi said they were happy doing domestic work, almost an equal proportion said they wouldn t want the same future for their daughters. I do not want them to do what I do, agrees Kumari. It is not good work.


This is the second of a three-part series on the plight of women workers in India.

Next: Women left behind by migrant husbands face new challenges in rural India.

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Women Workers Domestic Help Karkardooma Slums SEWA Self-employment Employment Migrant Women READ MORE ARTICLES BY: Malia Politzer & Cordelia Jenkins

2010: A Historic Year! 2010 was a historic year for domestic workers, women, people of color, immigrants, low wage workers, and labor rights! With the signing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on August 31, 2010 and its implementation on November 29, 2010, over six years of hard-fought struggle in the New York State legislature finally won rights, respect, and recognition for domestic workers! Lets take a look at some of our 2010 highlights:

This year

More than 1,000 allies turned out in New York City and Albany in support of dignity for domestic workers!

DWU conducted and published an independent study entitled Domestic Workers and Collective Bargaining . We surveyed over 500 workers for the report. The Department of Labor integrated our findings into their report, concluding that collective bargaining is feasible for domestic workers, making it the crucial next step in building power.

DWU and the Urban Justice Center launched a legal clinic, to swiftly address and win justice for cases of abuse and exploitation.

Worker-leaders led a leadership training program and a nanny training course.

DWU supported California sister organizations in launching the CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign.

We held our 10th Anniversary Gala at SEIU 32BJ, drawing over 400 attendees, including our Keynote Speaker Arlene Holt Speaker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO.

DWU members made nearly 2,000 new domestic worker contacts to continue building a strong base for dignity and justice.

In partnership with the National Employment Law Project, DWU published a Know Your Rights guide for workers.

And, there is more to come, in 2011

DWU will launch a massive Know Your Rights public education campaign, to ensure that all domestic workers know their rights, and employers their responsibilities.

DWU and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice will start the Domestic Justice Dialogue Project , and begin piloting collective bargaining on a neighborhood scale.

The DWU Ambassadors Program will launch, making trained domestic worker representatives available as first points of contact in key neighborhoods throughout the city. They will form neighborhood groups and conduct Know Your Rights trainings.

DWU in partnership with the Urban Justice Center will continue to fight for justice for individual workers whose rights have been violated, and will work with the Department of Labor to ensure these cases are swiftly addressed.

We will continue to help build the National Domestic Workers Alliance and support domestic worker organizations in California & Massachusetts, which are poised to introduce their own Bill of Rights legislation.

DWU will continue the struggle for fair labor standards, and inclusion in labor laws, both in Albany and through innovative collective bargaining models.

Thank you to all of our friends and supporters who rallied to bring justice, dignity, respect, and recognition!

Let's keep making greater change in 2011!