The 'invisible' domestic workers in Delhi & Gurgaon left in the lurch by employers

They provide essential services but remain invisible. They are not recognised as labour, do not have a job card and there is no registration for them...but that is just the tip of the iceberg

The 'invisible' domestic workers in Delhi & Gurgaon left in the lurch by employers
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Sanjukta Basu

Ruhima is a step mother to three children who are older than her. She came to Delhi from Bengal. She had never seen a fridge or even fancy locks on doors. She worked from the second day of her arrival in Gurgaon, looked after her old husband, set up a tea shop for him and arranged medical care when he had a cardiac arrest.

She has withstood two demolition drives of the busti she lived in, has spent nights under a tarpaulin, then gone to work the next day like nothing had happened. She and other domestic workers we have interacted with remain an inspiration.

The 'invisible' domestic workers in Delhi & Gurgaon left in the lurch by employers

They provide essential services but remain invisible. They are not recognised as labour, do not have a job card and there is no registration for them. They are forced to go through the indignity of police verifications because their criminality is taken for granted, but nobody checks the credentials and background of the employers.

We presently have data for 2328 domestic workers in Delhi and Haryana. Only 16 percent are currently employed. Many among them are reduced to a daily wager earning Rs 150 per day from being salaried workers earning Rs. 5000-6000 (As per minimum wages Act one day’s wage must be at least Rs. 400).

As many as 78% of them lost the job on employer’s insistence, 45% were permanently removed and rest were told they would be called once the pandemic gets over. A mere 16% of them got full salary during the lockdown, and 32% did not get any salary at all. As many as 92% of the surveyed 2328 DWs have not been vaccinated, and 6% could get only the first dose with the help from employers in the registration process. Almost 60% do not have Jan Dhan accounts so they did not get any cash transfer.


Relief provided by the government could not reach them either because they did not know about them or because of technical challenges in accessing the Public Distribution System (PDS) e-registration of ration cards for non-holders and providing e-coupons for Aadhar card holders to access ration.

PRIA and Martha Farrell Foundation have been working with the network of domestic workers (DWs) in Delhi and Haryana over the past three years around the issue of sexual harassment at their workplace. Amidst the Covid pandemic, we decided to start relief work but realised that we did not have enough data to even design the relief work.

The result was a women led survey, relief work and fund raising. The domestic workers themselves are collecting the data from their respective clusters and are also involved in designing the relief kit.

People who want to get involved with MFF’s relief work can sponsor a relief kit, which costs Rs.1500 for one month. Secondly, they can volunteer with us in maintaining the database. Thirdly, academics, artists and other civil society members can run their own fund-raising events such as online workshops or music concert or a stand-up comedy and donate the proceeds to the MFF Relief work.

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