Lockdown relaxation: Can domestic help resume work? Here is the answer

Domestic workers can resume work as per the Centre’s guidelines regarding relaxations in the lockdown. But here comes the question- can the local authorities can stop them?

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Representative Image
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NH Web Desk

As the relaxation process has begun in all the zones from May 4 after 1 month and 10 days of strict lockdown to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus by the union government, the domestic helps or maid servants are uncertain and confused whether they can resume their works or not. Most of these domestic helps work in residential societies or a residential areas where they usually have Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs) to make the day-to-day functioning smooth

The uncertainty arose when some media reports stated the Centre gave a nod for them to resume their work but handed over the decision of the movement of domestic workers to the RWAs of the cities. That means it will depend completely on the RWAs to decide whether they will allow the domestic helps inside the society or not. This confusion was created when a Home Ministry official on Friday said that RWAs will decide on whether domestic helps can resume services, and that liquor stores would not open in Red Zones. But contrary to the official’s statement the guidelines clearly state that domestic helps are allowed even in Red Zones.

Here are the rules which will apply on the movement of domestic helps:-

  • As per the new guidelines released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, even in the cities which are all in Red Zones such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, the domestic help and car cleaners are allowed.
  • Excluding containment zones, areas which are still prohibited from the public movement, services of self-employed people providing services such as house help, sanitation, electrical work, , car cleaning, plumbing, carpentry are permitted.
  • MHA mentioned particular activities in the prohibited list, other than that all other activities are permitted. As per the relaxation guidelines issued by MHA, free movement of people in all zones, barring containment zones, between 7 am and 7 pm, is permitted. Still, public transport would not ply in the Red and Orange Zones.
  • In all this, the Centre didn’t mention the RWAs authority, a Home Ministry official even said it clearly, “It is not for RWAs to decide the contours of the lockdown. That power is only vested with the Centre and the states. The MHA has not vested any power in RWAs to decide on the matter. The Centre has no issues with services of domestic workers or any other service provider,”.
  • Delhi government also said, “Services provided by self-employed persons (e.g. electrician, plumber, lift technician, A/C mechanic, vehicle mechanic, generator mechanic, TV mechanic, Dish TV/ Cable/ CCTV mechanic, Computer & Internet service provider, opticians, private security guards/ supervisors, gas service/ CNG pipeline technicians, sanitation workers, domestic helps/ maids, laundry/ press-wala etc.) are permitted except for barbers etc., as mentioned earlier,” and not mentioned RWA anywhere. The Delhi government allowed domestic helpers to join their works.

The senior officials have also now clarified that RWA will not decide as it comes under the Centre and state governments. States can still issue orders to restrict public movements as they have the powers to ignore the Centre’s relaxation guidelines under the Disaster Management Act.

But still, if RWAs want on the basis of the situation and emerging cases from the area, they can take a call on various activities to be allowed or not allowed in the particular area.

There is a law - Society bylaws- which gives the power to RWAs and cooperative housing societies to take measures depending on the situations. In such a situation the RWA office bearers have the power to decide and sort out the issue of domestic help in consultation with the residents.

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