Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It was shocking. It was shocking when I first heard it on CNN IBN livecast but at that time it was still in design phase. I read it today in The Telegraph and now it is seriously shocking!

After the 4 southern states and Rajasthan and Bihar, Maharashtra Assembly also passed a law for the domestic workers or housemaids or bais. What do they have to do? Register with the government. What do they get? Job security and perks like the salaried class. Weekly day off, proper sick leave, bonus, PF, pension, health insurance yada yada yada. Easy brownie points for the government.

This is one of the many unorganised sectors in India where some of the above perks might be beneficial but way too cumbersome. It does not make sense to have a compulsory weekly day off for a housemaid. What happens if the milkman says he won't come on Sundays anymore ? In fact, some of the perks are better left on a one-to-one compromise basis, as an understanding between the house mistress and the housemaid. That is how it currently is. In my opinion, there are other unorganised sectors which could be regularised with more efficiency and would actually make sense.

What was shocking was not the passing of this law. Well it was, to some extent. I, however, kept wondering how such a law is going to be implemented. Making a simple thing complicated by introducing paperwork never works. Then came the fun part. This law is going to be a welfare law, which means its just a recommendation. No one is going to be punished if they do not follow it, in short a big thumbs down to implementation. Shocked ?

The state is supposed to set up a Domestic Workers’ Welfare Board where housemaids have to register to avail these facilities. Presumably, the board will also take care of the government's share of the help. With any board in India, comes a party banner - is anyone else finding it fishy ?

I wonder why there is no such law in my darling state West Bengal. We are supposed to be the first to think and pen down the law on paper.

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