Anjana (name changed) came to Delhi about two years back from her village in Jharkhand through an agent of a placement agency. She badly needed a job to support her parents and siblings. The agency did manage a job of a domestic worker for her but after physically exploiting her for a few days. She took it as destiny and worked for ten months here. As per the agreement, the employer deposited her monthly wages to the agency instead of giving directly to her. After eleven months when she decided to visit her village, she asked for her wages from the agency, which gave her only
Rs 12,000. Though, she should have been given Rs 25,000 as decided at the time of agreement, a semi-illiterate Anjana found the amount of Rs 12,000 too as a big amount and returned her village. The rest amount was swallowed by the agency owner whom nobody questioned.
This is not the story of just one domestic worker of Delhi but of thousands of innocent Vanvasi girls working in various cities of the country. But, despite such a large scale exploitation, there is absolutely no rules and regulations to protect their interests and stop exploitation. No labour law is applicable for them. The placement agencies are not required to face any legal proceedings for their misdeeds or malpractices. Thus, the future of these girls appears to be bleak and uncertain. These girls are the victims of a dangerous game of demand and supply played by vested interests. Various players in this trade are benefited greatly at the expense of the hard work and toil by these poor and needy girls. They rush to Delhi and other cities with great hope but soon their dreams are shattered due to stark reality of the drudgery of the work and they return to their villages almost empty handed.
Most of the Vanvasi girls migrating to big cities including Delhi are from three states?Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa and that too mainly from seven districts, namely Simdega, Gumla and Ranchi (Jharkhand), Rourkela (Orissa), Jashpur, Sarguja and Raigarh (Chhattisgarh). According to an estimate, the number of such migrating Vanvasi girls from these districts is about 60,000.
These alarming facts have come into light after a study recently conducted by Mumbai-based Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra in association with Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, about the life of Vanvasi girls. The activists visited over 200 villages and directly interacted with more than 600 girls who were then in their villages on holidays. Many field workers from various social organisations also joined this survey and helped understand the problem of migration comprehensively. Since about 70 per cent of such girls migrate to Delhi, a survey of such girls and also the houses where they work was also conducted in Delhi. The placement agencies and agents and the institutions like church, which have an important role in the whole process were also studied. ?Drishti has tried to make this study perfect. This is not just a study for the sake of study, but many feasible suggestions are also made to the governments, the social organisations and also to the society in general,? says Anjali Deshpande, secretary of Drishti.
According to the study, the demand of these girls is continuously increasing in Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Chennai and other metropolitan cities. These girls mostly prefer to migrate from their villages due to absolute poverty and non-availability of job opportunities there. Because of the large demand of female domestic workers, a well-organised network has emerged for supplying such girls in Delhi and elsewhere. Nearly 800 to 1000 placement agencies are in operation in Delhi alone. Though these agencies are certainly of great help to these girls in finding jobs, they earn large profits at the cost of their hard work. Most of the agencies exploit them financially and their transactions are not clean and reliable.
Such girls are employed in the families on 11 months agreements. At the end of the term, they are required to enter into a new agreement. In many cases some of the girls find a new jobs on their own or go to other agencies due to cheating by the previous agencies. The girls are mostly paid from Rs 2,500 to 3,500 per month. The agencies however charge their employers from Rs 4,000 to 5,000 earning a profit of more than Rs 1,000 per girl per month. In addition, the girls are also required to pay registration fee of Rs 1,000 to 1,500 to the agents. Not only that they also pay commission equivalent to one or two months? wages to the agencies.
The study reveals that in some cases the girls are victims of sexual harassment. When they return to their native villages for holidays or permanently, they are also looked upon with suspicion about their characters.
Drishti has demanded immediate enactment of a comprehensive law to prevent migration of minor girls, harassment of such girls and also punishment to the employers of minor girls.
Drishti has also appealed to the state governments of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa to take a lead and see that these girls from their states are given all the facilities and protection.
Meanwhile a seminar was organised in Delhi to discuss the problems of female domestic workers and to find out their solutions.