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The plight of domestic workers hit by the pandemic

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

By Rajvi Mulani and Anvitha Reddy

Like many, the lockdown was a terrifying experience for the 23-year-old Shilpa working as a house help in Ahmedabad city. Since the government had implemented a complete lockdown from 23rd March 2020 due to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, it had become challenging for Shilpa to earn her daily wage which she would use for paying off necessities like rent, food items, etc.

"There were times when we had no other choice but to use up our hard-earned savings just to buy ration," says Shilpa with a deep sigh.

Shilpa, like many migrants in the city of Ahmedabad, is from a small district named Dungarpur in Rajasthan. Her life has always been difficult with struggles to meet the ends and sustain her family. With the untimely demise of her beloved father, at a tender age of just 15, her family unable to sustain themselves decided to marry her off.

By the time she could understand her responsibilities, she got pregnant. Despite having a small shop of their own in the village, her constant disputes with her father-in-law caused the family of four to shift to Ahmedabad to earn their daily bread. After a year, she sent her kids back to get an education in the hometown, while they continued working in the city.

During this tough time, not only were they affected financially, but their children could not get schooling as their schools lacked the online facilities, we usually take for granted. After months of staying apart, she decided to go back to her family in the month of June.

"Luckily, there were no COVID-19 cases in my family. Even if someone experienced any symptoms; people in the village would not get tested for it as they feared any potential medical expenses" said Shilpa, who faced the same plight of health versus wealth as many others. "We were a bit unsure about the safety standards when traveling by bus and it seemed to be very risky, but the transportation facilities were quite sanitized and cognizant of health and safety of the travellers"

Whilst there were many government schemes such as Pradhan Manti Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, etc., she and her family members lacked knowledge of the same. Their expectations were still the same – getting more financial help from the government.

"Once our children complete their education, we would move back to the village" she said with tears in her eyes. “COVID-19 has thrown light on the situation us migrants have been facing forever. People are more sensitive and understanding of our situation, giving us hope that with a little help, a huge change can be seen”


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