With state mum, housing societies draft own standard procedure for allowing maids

Updated: Jun 08, 2020, 07:38 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

With the middle-class of Mumbai and neighbouring regions, and more than 65,000 registered housing societies divided over allowing house help into the premises, an umbrella body seeks to solve the issue amicably

A BMC worker fumigates the lift of a housing society in Nehru  Nagar. File pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
A BMC worker fumigates the lift of a housing society in Nehru Nagar. File pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

With BMC and cooperative department failing to pass any directives for cooperative housing societies, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association (MahaSeWa) and other housing federations had a webinar on Saturday (attended by around 650 members and office bearers from residential societies across Mumbai and out of Mumbai) to discuss and decide on allowing maid / domestic help post lock down, and a majority were in favour of allowing domestic help / maids, and other technicians, into the society amidst following a strict standard operating procedure (sop).

Confirming the same, Ramesh Prabhu, founder chairman of MahaSeWa told MiDDAY, "When the lockdown happened from March 24, onwards, the collectors from the respective districts and District Deputy Registrar of Cooperative Societies issued notification on March 26, stating that no outsiders should be allowed inside the cooperative society this included house maids, electrician, plumbers, drivers and other support staff etc."

Prabhu added, "This restriction, continued even after the second, third and fourth lockdown. And on May 31, the state government launched 'Mission Begin Again' wherein they clarified what will be allowed and prohibited, and touched upon all issues, pertaining to public moment and opening of shops and establishments."

A housing society in Sion being sanitised. File pic/Pradeep Dhivar
A housing society in Sion being sanitised. File pic/Pradeep Dhivar

However, their was no directives or clarification on how the cooperative societies, would open and moreover no clarification on the collectors earlier directives when lockdown begun were ignored– Mumbai has 35000, MMR region has 65000 and Maharashtra state has 1 lakh registered cooperative housing societies, who are today left in lurch and awaiting clarification / directives from BMC, and Co-operative department, which never came in till date. Even our letters and reminders addressed to Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and BMC chief, has not been answered till date and it was very much important, as many cooperative societies were framing arbitrary and irrational rules, as per their whims and fancies, explained Prabhu.

Prabhu sighted some instances to support his concern, few societies vehemently decided their own norms, which was found to be harsh and impractical in many ways – for instances – a) society directing that maids technicians would be barred from using lifts and common areas and should mandatorily climb stairs (this is discrimination), b) technicians will be allowed only after buying / wearing PPE kits, but maids were not allowed entry, c) if flat owner was ready to make the maid stay with them the society was fine to give permission, d) A society had imposed fine on members for letting maid enter the premises thereby violating society order etc, without realising that members seeking desperate assistance from housemaid, are only those, who are in urgent need, either to take care of their elderly sick parents or those who are not able to do multiple tasking, where they handle household and even office work, being at home.

Prabhu added, "Apart from house maids, major concern is for those who have started renovation at their houses before lockdown, and their labour including carpenters, mason, electrician etc are not allowed entry. Also vendors and those who have opted for leave and licenses are being barred entry into the some of the society. And few society, even pulled the string of majority v/s minority for deciding on barring the above activities due to covid pandemic, which is unfair and un called for."

Ramesh Prabhu, founder chariman, MahaSeWA
Ramesh Prabhu, founder chariman, MahaSeWA

"Such arbitrary rules, are causing lot of inconvenience and have led to dispute between members and the society office bearers, this animosity is gradually leading to pressure builds up, it will only turn the situation go out of control, amongst members, and therefore we decided that a standard operating procedure should be formulated and we have come across Pune Municipal Corporation notification and also a brochure from Kalyan Municipal Corporation, weeks ago who have directed the SOP, which even we are following (to check the detailed sop log on to www.mid-day.com)" said Prabhu, who then started an online campaign to raise the concern.

Online campaign
A letter was once again sent by MahaSeWa to BMC on May 28 and again on June 2, raising the serious concerns about societies and also the need for a clarification to come in and when this also did not yield any result, the association started social media campaign on whatsapp titled 'allow house maids in cooperative and twitter campaign -#maids, # domestic help, which got over five hundred responses, which was sent to Chief Minister. And when this also did not yield result, we decided to adopt the SOP formulated by two municipal corporations (PMC and KDMC).

When asked to elaborate the points discussed and countered in the webinar, Prabhu pointed out the following, stating that out of 650 participants, nearly 400 were in favour of having maids allowed and nearly 100 were also in support for having other service providers allowed, only 150 were against allowing maids or any outsiders, –

Concern - Because of one member, how can we put all members at risk?

Counter – Let those members who do not want to hire maid, remain inside their house, so that they are safe and secured

Concern – If the maid or any member get infected by Covid the society chairman and secretary should not be held responsible?

Counter – Under no circumstances and in the last so many months, none of the society where positive cases were detected, the society chairman or secretary were held responsible, as it was a myth and wrong apprehension.

Concern - We do not have the required man power to take temperature of the maid or do necessary disinfection sprayed and keep record of the moment of the maids within complex and this will be additional burden on the society officer bearers?

Counter - Society is for the welfare of the members and any additional burden should be either shared by the members or a methodology should be worked out internally taking into confidence of all the members residing in the society.

Concern - Why government is not clarifying its stand on cooperative societies lock down for outsider and maids?

Counter- We presume that since the lifting of lockdown was allowed from June 8 and no specific lines were mentioned about cooperative societies or directives given to them, it is presumed that lifting of lock down for public moment and opening of shops and establishments, also include moments of maids, and other service providers in cooperative societies.

The webinar was attended by two doctors, who expressed that by taking necessary precautions the maids should be allowed, because covid will remain and we have to now live with covid and they suggested two level precaution – at society and house level –

At society level
a) The society should take common precaution – santising lift area, common area and not allow the maids to loiter unnecessarily around the residential complex. Thermal thermometer should be used and temperature recorded daily.

b) Arrangement for proper Handwash and sanitising compulsorily at entry level

At house level –
a) Maid should keep all their chappal and footwears outside the house

b) The moment she enters the house, she should not touch anything and instead goes to the washroom, where she cleans the foot and hand, and if possible take shower

c) The flat member can give a new apron and disposable mask

d) Maid should not interact or chat with any members in the family and she should finish her work and before living the house she once again ensure that the apron is washed left for drying and masked is disposed off-

e) She should be advised to take a vitamin supplement in consultation with her doctors

f) Arogya Sethu application should be downloaded in members phone including maid

Prabhu concluded stating, "We have decided to circulate the SOP (KDMC and PMC) with all our members, and respective societies can make necessary additions as per their requirements and modify the same for making it easily workable for the society and its residents. We will be once again approaching the BMC and Chief Minister, to issue a clarity at the earliest or else they societies can operate like before lockdown following issued SOP."

What residents say

Shantanu Bara, a resident of Ek Dant Chs Ltd, Goregaon (E)
"We are desperate to have our maid come home and start work, but our society office bearers are not agreeing for the same. And since the government has lifted lockdown from today (Monday), we cannot continue to stay home and do household work. The webinar meeting was very informative and SOP are very practical, but a clarity from BMC or government, will be helpful"

Aneel Saraf, Secretary Octacrest, Lokhandwala Complex, Kandivli
"I am personally for allowing maids to enter society, but there are people with views of for and against, which was seen even in the webinar discussion, which was very good initiative. We have to understand that we will have to live with COVID and it is going to be our new normal and the need is to educate the masses to clear myths."

Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation

Guidelines for residential areas (residential buildings, housing societies) covers the following areas – entrance to the main building, lift, care of common area, combined washroom in society courtyard, tips for cooks baby sitters, housekeeping staff, tips for residents, how to maintain hygiene and checklist –

The entrance to the main building

. Inquiry and screening of those approaching the entrance should be done if possible. Everyone should be tested by thermal meters.

. There should be a social distance of one meter between two persons.

. Awareness banner hoardings such as hand washing, social distance, wearing of masks should be put up in the premises of the society.

.  Phone numbers of public hospitals, health centres, Covid hospitals, police, fire, ambulance etc. should be displayed in the visible area.

. Determine the way in and out of the Society premises.

. Hand wash station or wash basin should be set up for hand washing.

. Those entering the Society premises should not be allowed to enter without wearing a mask, handkerchief or clean cloth on their face, Courier / Delivery Boy should be asked to keep the items in the common area. Preferably the residents should not touch the received items.

LIFT
. Limit access in lift. It will be necessary to wear a face mask while going in the lift.

. Sanitizer should be placed near the lift and refrain from cleaning hands with it. If it is not possible to use sanitizer, water and soap should be provided to the members and visitors for hand washing.

. Lift buttons, doorbell buttons, rolling, latch and handles are frequently touched, so such items should be sanitized frequently.

. Lift should be cleaned twice a day with detergent and water. In doing so, talk to the management of the lift company and clean accordingly. The inside of the lift and buttons should also be disinfected.

. Use a toothpick/stick to press the button in the lift, keep it outside the lift. After use, throw it in the dustbin in your home.

CARE OF COMMON AREA
. Social distance should be maintained while using the garden, clubhouse, play area, seating area etc. in the yard of the housing society. Fix time for it. Such a place should be cleaned before use.

. If there is a swimming pool in the premises of the society, it should be kept closed till further notice.

. Disinfect items inside the gym or indoor games.

. Ten or more persons should not be invited to any function in the Society's Club House or in the member's house. Crowding should be avoided in such events as much as possible.

. Care should be taken to keep the vehicles neat and in good condition in the parking lot. Other vehicles should not be touched and should be cleaned and used.

. If there are shops in the premises of the society, they should be asked to follow the guidelines published by the Corporation earlier.

. The unused or waste items kept on the surface of the yard of the building, corners, open space should be removed and the area should be cleaned.

COMBINED TOILET AND BATHROOM IN THE SOCIETY'S COURTYARD

. Hand washing should be arranged near the toilet.

. Clean the toilet three to four times a day with detergent or Lizol, Harpic etc.

. Avoid touching bathroom items as much as possible.

. Wash hands and wear a mask after using the washroom.

. Garbage bins should be kept in the premises of the society as per the norms laid down by the Municipal Corporation.

. Install an exhaust fan in the toilet and bathroom.

CARE TO BE TAKEN BY VISITORS: SUGGESTIONS FOR HOUSEKEEPERS, COOKS, AND BABYSITTERS

. Hands and feet should be washed clean by visitors or other persons when entering the house.

. After entering the house, to keep own belongings i.e. purse, bags, etc. a separate place should be fixed.

. Always wear a face mask.

. The cook should wear a cap on his head, apron and work with cleanliness.

. Caretakers and babysitters should take special care of cleanliness while working in the house.

. When housemaids are doing housework in 4-5 places, if they get symptoms of COVID-like disease, they should be given a 14-day leave. Once the treatment is over, they should be given back their work. Else if they are found in the company of a COVID-like patient, they should be given 7 days leave.

. While giving work to Plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc. they should wear a face mask. Wash hands thoroughly and do not allow to touch anything in the house. They should be paid online, preferably through online procedures.

PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY THE RESIDENTS WHILE ENTERING THE HOUSE

. When entering the house, footwear should be kept in a regular place outside the house. Wash hands after removing shoes or sandals.

. Hand sanitizer should be kept outside the house.

. Handle household dustbins carefully.

OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES

. In case of COVID positive patient or a person coming in contact with a person having COVID-like symptoms, such a person should be instructed to stay in an isolation room or at home for 14 days.

. Special protection and care should be taken for persons suffering from heart disease, cancer, diabetes or other diseases as well as pregnant women.

. After entering the house, wash your hands with soap or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Wash your hands before eating or after coming out of the toilet.

.Transact through digital operating systems e.g. Use Net Banking, NEFT, UPI, Foogle-Pay, Paytm and avoid using debit and credit cards as much as possible.

. Do not spit or litter in the premises of society/building.

. Carry a handkerchief or towel with you.

. Wash your hands after using utensils, furniture, mobile, airtight food, groceries, bedsheets, pens, papers, stationery, computers, files, folders. If anyone in the house is sick, follow these instructions carefully.

. Keep perishable, airtight items clean and refrigerated.

. Leave vegetables and fruits open for 2 to 4 hours, then wash and use.

. Non-perishable airtight items should be kept at normal temperature for 24 to 48 hours and only then kept in cupboards.

. Cupboard (storage place) should be kept dry and sterile.

. Senior citizens should be taken care of. Preferably encourage them to stay indoors. Follow the rules while walking or jogging in the morning. While visiting children and seniors, clean hands and wear masks.

HYGIENE AND MAINTENANCE

. Society Premises should be washed daily with detergent powder and water.

. Staircase, railing and places where the hands are placed should be cleaned daily.

. Furniture items should be cleaned daily.

. Unnecessary and obsolete items should be removed and the space should be used.

. Clean toilet door, latch, faucet, handle, toilet bowl etc. twice a day.

. Use your handkerchief without using a common towel after coming out of the toilet.

. If possible, keep dustbins everywhere.

. Pest control should be done in the society from inside and outside as well as in the
houses.

SUGGESTIONS FOR SHARED HOMES

. Shared housing societies should keep their premises clean.

. Keep social distance.

. Bed sheets, towels should be used separately in the house without sharing.

. Unnecessary items in the house should be removed.

. Members of the house should wear masks when at home and wash their hands frequently.

. Special care should be taken of the person suffering from chronic diseases.

. Always keep the house clean and dry.

CHECKLIST

. Washing or sanitizing hands.

. Keeping the social distance of 1 mtr. between two persons.

. It is mandatory to use cloth, handkerchief and readymade masks.

. Clean the surface frequently like tiles, floor, Koba.

. Care should be taken not to touch any object while visiting.

Note: The above procedure should be carried out smoothly to prevent corona infection. In addition to these suggestions, the society should include some other suggestions and use them in their daily work.

External expert says,

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, senior allergy and asthma specialist to echoed for allowing maid and other service providers into the society, has some health and safety tips, which can be followed by every society before letting them in

· We have a mission restart in Maharashtra people are going to go to work after a two and half month lockdown. Maids are now essential to look after household work, elderly sick people and for baby siting. There are several societies who are allowing technicians to enter their society so why ostracize maids only, after all they belong poor category, they need employment and they need money to feed their families following tips 

· They should be asked to wear mask and gloves

· They should follow personal hygiene

· The society should use hand sanitizer regularly

· The houseowner

· Maids are the least to transmit as virus into society,

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