ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Quasi-magisterial Power of ‘Madams’

An Insight into the Noida Case

The “Noida case” in Delhi, whereindomestic workers protesting the torture of one of their ranks were booked by the police for rioting, showcases the exploitation at different levels that these workers and their families suffer. Not only do their employers virtually treat them like slaves but the police and lawyers also take advantage of their helplessness and ignorance to foist false charges and fleece them of their hard-earned money. In this particular incident, a union minister who is also the local MP gave the entire incident a communal colour by insinuating that hard-pressed employers were forced to employ “Bangladeshis” in their homes.

Cities across India have seen a continuous growth in the number of impoverished women and children seeking employment as domestic workers. Till the early 1990s, domestic workers consisted largely of local labour. However, in the post-liberalisation era, the domestic workers are mostly migrant labourers. Absorbed initially as construction workers in the cities, many of them subsequently turn to domestic work. Slums that come up near posh housing societies in big cities are now overflowing with predominantly interstate migrant labour. In the Delhi–National Capital Region, a large number of such domestic workers are from impoverished sections of Bengal, Assam and Jharkhand.

In mid-July, this otherwise docile workforce showed remarkable collective zeal against their wealthy employers in Noida. The ugly underbelly of rampant exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge cleavage between their interests and those of their employers was laid bare for all to see when domestic workers began an agitation outside a high-rise residential complex, the Mahagun Moderne, in Noida’s Sector 78. The incident that occurred on 12 July also revealed the sickening nexus between the police, employers, and right-wing politicians who extended support to the employers without batting an eyelid. Within hours, the struggle against a gender crime and a pertinent labour issue was given a communal colour, with the accused employers and their sympathisers identifying the protesting workers as “Bangladeshis.”

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