It’s ironic but not surprising that the people suffering the most from the ongoing pandemic are the ones who played no role in spreading it across the world.
I am talking about the underprivileged, the migrant workers, the house help.
Travelling outside the country is something most of them don’t even dare to dream. Their aspirations are simple: Family members safe with food on their plates.
‘We need milk for our children’: India’s domestic workers – who cook & clean for the nation’s affluent families – struggle to feed their kids as employers stop paying them. They can’t work (or aren’t wanted due to covid fears). They have no rights to protect them. @divyaconnects pic.twitter.com/nReF5oYSE8— Nicola Careem (@NicolaCareem) May 24, 2020
We, the privileged, couldn’t even ensure that.
As an invisible virus brings the country down to its knees, there’s one common complaint coming in from every state, every city. People abandoning their maids, in some cases not letting them use lifts, out of the fear that they will transfer the virus to their families.
A virus that rich people, flying in planes brought here. Of course, it wasn’t their fault either, but stigmatising a section of the society going through a rough patch for no fault of theirs is unfair.
Living in gated communities in India means having to follow stupid, sadistic, and casteist rules of the association. Maids and servants can face horrible restrictions. Here is one community where the maids are not allowed to use the elevator: pic.twitter.com/tXIHlVbnIT— Jayant Bhandari (@JayantBhandari5) May 24, 2020
In an exclusive report published in The News Minute, Geeta Menon, who formed the Domestic Workers Rights Union in Karnataka threw some light on the issue:
Over 80% of domestic workers have been told not to come to work for the next two months because their employers fear that they are carriers of the virus. Shutting themselves inside a room when the domestic worker comes to work, all this is insensitive and stigmatising.
For some educated morons, who are not even giving paid leaves to the maids as they are suspectibly responsible for spreading corona.— Radhika Barman🇮🇳 (@RadhikaBarman5) May 24, 2020
That’s racist. That’s not fair….
We are a deeply prejudiced nation, it’s not regarded with a political spectrum but India’s historical hierarchy https://t.co/yCXA6jTR4E
She also added that while the fear is justified, given the circumstances, there is a way to communicate it.
Truly, we need to understand that these people don’t live in cramped places out of choice, they don’t use common washrooms because they want to. They don’t have an option.
Just pathetic. How can they blame maids for spread of virus? They may have got infected because of people who fly like them who brought it in India.— Durbeen Doctor (@doctorhitesh) May 26, 2020
So if people are scared that they might be the carriers of the virus, shouldn’t that make them more empathetic?
The virus could claim their maids’ lives, and it is insensitive that the families they served for years are only thinking about themselves.
Maids are being discriminated all over India, this adds to their dehumanization. Shameful— Hypocrisy Watch (منافقت پر نظر) (@bigotry_watch) May 26, 2020
In the same report, Sharadamma, a 57-year-old domestic worker was quoted as saying:
Everyone thinks that we live in dirty houses and don’t maintain hygiene. Some of my employers said that since I am old, they are scared of me spreading it to them. Last week, they all told me not to come to work for two months as they are scared that I will spread the virus. Now, I don’t know what to do for two months. They are not even willing to pay.
DHARMO RAKSHATI RAKSHITAHA— V Venugopal (@Venuvenugopalgv) May 25, 2020
85% of the domestic workers in India have not been paid during the Lock down. :– Survey across 8 states in India. They did not get the wages nor did they get work elsewhere.
Imagine facing a life-threatening challenge with little to no money. Imagine not having the luxury to lock oneself up in the house.
These are things we need to think about, as a society.
In this context, it would be remiss not to mention a recent Kent ad for a dough-maker, which read:
Are you allowing your maid to knead atta dough by hand? Her hands may be infected.
I hope they realise that it was ” foreign return” madams and sirs who gave the virus to the maids …. and not the other way around! https://t.co/XTc381MfWD— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) May 26, 2020
Is this how we are going to show our support to people who keep our houses running?
Thankfully, the ad was called out by many and was ultimately removed after an apology.
Press Release pic.twitter.com/zUPQubmDvK— Kent RO (@KentROSystems) May 27, 2020