Unlock 1.0: Unrest in several housing societies over allowing maids in

Updated: Jun 06, 2020, 06:48 IST | Anurag Kamble | Mumbai

Residents pitted against each other; some fear COVID spread, others say can't dictate

Tarapore Gardens in Oshiwara
Tarapore Gardens in Oshiwara

While Mission Begin Again is taking flight in the state, resuming the services of house help in societies still remains a grey area. While some housing societies feel its up to flat owners, others say they don't want to take a risk, while an Oshiwara society has insisted that house help download the Aarogya Setu app. Varying positions on the matter has pitted residents of housing societies against each other.

Prashant Basrur, resident of Tarapore Gardens in Oshiwara told mid-day, "I don't understand how a maid living in a non-containment zone coming at my place is an issue of the society? If she is taking all the precautions while coming to my house, it's nobody's business. Women who don't have smartphones can't have the Aarogya Setu app and the green tick. But, our society officials claim these are Mumbai police's rules. Maids are not a luxury and nowadays when, Work From Home is keeping us glued to the laptop, we need them like never before."

"If the government has allowed the distribution of newspapers, why can't we have maids and drivers? We have to move forward now, of course with the utmost care," Basrur added.

GP Mahadik, chairman of Sainath Estate CHS in Mulund, had a different opinion. "We have 42 flats in the society, many children and senior citizens as well. So we have decided not to allow any maids for now. Even parcels get dropped with security guards and if a car cleaner is coming to the society, he is not supposed to handle the key. The owner of the car must go down, open and close it for the cleaner. We will wait till June 8 to see if any new guidelines are issued."

'COVID-19 fears are real'

"The lockdown and subsequent Unlock 1.0 are ambiguous. There can't be a straight yes or no on the matter of maids. Their livelihoods depend on the work. But the COVID-19 fears are real," said Ankita Deshpande, a resident of Sant Namdeo CHS in Kopar Khairane, Navi Mumbai. "My society hasn't allowed maids to resume work and I don't think we would allow them till the end of June at least. But, the majority of the residents of my society are paying maids their monthly wages along with extra money to help them tide over this difficult time. Every housing society should decide for itself whether to allow them or not depending on the ratio of old and young persons, the number of positive cases in locality and safety precautions that need to be strictly implemented if maids are allowed to work. But, it is still advisable to avoid calling them back to work till the end of June even in areas where COVID-19 cases are few," Deshpande added.

Sainath Estate CHS in Mulund is not allowing house help for now. PIC/RAJESH GUPTA
Sainath Estate CHS in Mulund is not allowing house help for now. Pic/Rajesh Gupta

The secretary of a housing society in Vikhroli East said, "At the beginning of lockdown, we had unanimously decided to restrict the entry of maids. After unlock was announced, we asked BMC officials about their rules or directions, but did not get any clarity. So for the time being, we will continue the restrictions for a few more weeks. We had asked senior citizens who need maids full day and were willing to give special permits, but they too refused. Most of our maids come from an area that is a hotbed right now."

Dnyanesh Patil, state coordinator of Rashtriya Gharelu Kamgar Chalwal, said, "In Mumbai, we have approximately 2 to 2.25 lakh household workers or maids. Out of them, hardly 15 per cent are working. But, as restrictions are easing, we are hopeful that women will get back to work. But, there is still reluctance or rather fear among housing societies."

"Societies want maids to have Aarogya Setu app, testing and whatnot. We are urging societies to take hygiene measures such as gloves, sanitisers for maids. They are ready to do it. Around half the employers were paying salary to their maids, but what about the other half? They have somehow survived, but work should resume."

What the house help say

Manisha Mane from Chembur said that women from her area have not been called to work. "I live at PL Lokhande Marg. We were paid for March and April but haven't had money since May. We had approached the societies but they said the government has not clarified on the matter. We are in a difficult situation now."

Another maid, Savita Pandit, from Vashi Naka, said, "I just got my salary for March month. I did not get any food or ration all this time. We are not sure whether our employers will call us. We are now trying to form a self-help group because we don't want to die of starvation. Employers think we will bring the infection to their homes. Till the time this fear remains, it'll be difficult for us to resume work.

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