Millennium Post

Battered housemaids

She started working as a maid at the home of a doctor in West Delhi, and hoped her life would change for the better.

But her dreams came crashing when her employer started beating and abusing her for small mistakes. ‘She would slap me and shout at me for no reason, I was made to stand under the summer sun, they did not give me food and locked me inside the house,’ Barkha said, recounting her tale of horror which ended only when she managed to call her parents who contacted the police. She was rescued from the west Delhi flat in 2012 after serving for a few months. Barkha is not the only one. In the last one year, around 170 cases of violence against domestic helps have been reported in the capital. But the case that has jolted the people due to its sheer perversity is of dental surgeon Jagriti, who was arrested for allegedly beating to death her 35-year-old maid Rakhi. Jagriti, wife of a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Dhananjay Singh, has also been accused of severely battering her two other servants. He has also been arrested for allegedly destroying evidence and violating the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. The couple is in police custody.

According to Rishikant, spokesperson with NGO Shakti Vahini, violence against domestic helps is on the rise.’There has been a rise in such cases. There is an all-round debasement in society. ‘It is also linked to the economic situation of the people. People have suddenly got rich, and this makes them ill-treat those who are poor or are working for them,’ Rishikant said. The NGO rescues minors working as child labourers.Recounting a 2006 incident, which he has never been able to forget, Rishikant said three girls aged between eight and 12 were rescued from a Faridabad house. ‘Their employer used to give them food inside the toilet and used to beat them with a flat wooden bat meant for pounding clothes while washing. The three were brought here on the pretext of a job from West Bengal and Chhattisgarh,’ Rishikant said.

The three girls were working in an engineer’s residence. According to Deputy Commissioner of Police S B S Tyagi, such brutality is seen in homes where the woman of the house is ‘frustrated’ or ‘depressed’ for whatever reason. ‘It might be financial loss, marital discord or mental disorder. But nobody has the right to assault their maid, whether they are minor or major,’ Tyagi said. There is yet no specific law to safeguard the rights of domestic workers.

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