Morung Express News
Dimapur | June 14
“There is no off day or leave granted to me even on a Sunday by my employer who is also a Christian. I cannot even attend Sunday devotionals, Mothers’ Day, Easter Sunday, Christmas and New Year programmes and I feel very guilty spiritually.”
These words, uttered by a domestic worker today, reflect the feelings of a community who are victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuses, besides being underpaid.
Domestic workers in the state under the banner of National Domestic Workers’ Movement (NDWM) – Nagaland Region have demanded that the Nagaland Government register and recognize them as a trade union.
The NDWM has also demanded inclusion of domestic workers as ‘Workers’ in the Schedule Employment of Nagaland Minimum Wage. These demands were elaborated during a press conference at Assisi Centre for Integrated Development at Assisi Higher Secondary School, Lakeview Colony, Dimapur on Thursday.
A local domestic worker who has been in the profession for the last 10 years said that they cannot raise their voices since there is no established law regarding their rights, protection and security.
Another urged the government to fix their wages since they are often underpaid while being made to over work. A migrant domestic worker meanwhile shared her experience of inappropriate sexual advances made by the employer in the absence of his wife. She also described how she felt threatened from raising her voice in the absence of any specific framework for protection and security of domestic workers.
One worker said that her employer had cautioned her against attending the meeting organized by NDWM –Nagaland.
Legal Advisor for NDWM, Nagaland, Limanochet said that court cases concerning victimized domestic workers were tried as a human rights issues and not from the angle of economic rights since there is no established law for domestic workers.
He categorized domestic workers above the age of 18 under three categories—live-in, part time and full time. He informed that the Minimum Wage for a domestic worker was fixed at Rs 115 per day for eight hours of work. “If the domestic workers are recognized they will automatically get the fixed wage,” he added. However, the minimum wage rate varies from state to state.
The legal advisor also spoke about difficulties in getting the support of policy makers and officers concerning the rights of domestic workers since most of them employ such workers in their homes.
Another worker pleaded, “Your home is an office for me. Kindly treat me with respect and dignity as you expect from your employer in office.”
President of the Eastern Nagaland Women Organization, Dimapur unit, Taumai Phom meanwhile pointed out that many domestic workers from Eastern Nagaland are often ill-treated and remain unprotected. She informed that the ENWO Dimapur is trying to control outflow of domestic workers from the region until the government frames laws for their protection.
State Co-ordinator for NDWM, Nagaland, Sr. Pramila said that majority of the domestic workers in Dimapur belong to the Bengali, Bihari, Nepali, Muslim, Adivasi and Eastern Naga communities, who are often brought with the promise of education and a better life.
She stated that the contributions made by domestic workers are not recognized since they are not legally recognized as ‘workers.’ Sr Pramila further rued that domestic workers are often accused of thefts and subjected to physical and sexual abuse, police interrogation etc.
“Domestic workers, who stare at an uncertain future when they grow weak with age are thrown from employment, paid just the bare minimum required for survival and asking for a raise becomes a joke for the employer,” she pointed out.
Since 2014, the NDWM, Nagaland has been submitting numerous representations to the State Government and the Governor’s office. Despite assurances, no action has materialised. A draft proposal for fixation of minimum wages for domestic workers in Nagaland is still pending in the Finance Department.
A letter dated July 1, 2010 from the Secretary of Labour, Ministry of Labour and Employment, New Delhi to Chief Secretaries on Minimum Wages says that domestic work falls under the State sphere and that the State Governments are empowered to include domestic works as a scheduled employment under statute.
Another document released by the Press Information Bureau, Government of India dated March 9, 2011 states that domestic workers fall under the purview of State sphere, wherein, the State Governments are the appropriate Governments to fix, review, revise and enforce the minimum wages of domestic workers under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
Altogether, 1750 domestic workers are registered with NDWM – Nagaland. NDWM has its presence in 18 states in the country, and urges employers to allow domestic workers to register themselves in the movement.