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India’s domestic workers face abuse without legal protection

India's labor ministry is currently preparing legislation to provide social security for domestic workers. But rights groups say more legal protection against mistreatment is necessary. Murali Krishnan reports. Stories of wealthy families in India physically abusing and mistreating young women employed as domestic workers in metropolitan areas are becoming more common in India. In a high-profile case last July, a 26-year-old domestic worker from Bangladesh lodged a compliant with Indian police saying she had been beaten up and held captive by her employers at a home located in the upscale gated community of Noida, a suburb of New Delhi. She was freed after friends and family gathered in protest outside the apartment complex where she was being held. Her employers accused her of theft, but it was later discovered that she had not been paid for two months. The case is indicative of a larger trend of domestic workers in India being mistreated. Earlier this year, domestic workers at a posh housing complex in Mumbai went on a strike to protest the residents' attempts to standardize below-average payment. The residents eventually conceded to the workers' demands, but a few months later, all of the protesting maids were sacked. There have also been extreme cases of abuse - including the murder three years ago of a domestic worker in Delhi. A legislator and his wife were arrested in connection with the murder of the 35-year-old maid who worked in their home. It was reported that prior to her death, the maid had been physically abused with a hot iron and was hit with sharp objects like antelope horns. Read more:Hong Kong's domestic workers 'treated worse than the dogs' Where to turn for help? There are widespread reports of domestic workers in India being underpaid, overworked and abused by their employers. Incidents range from withholding of wages to starvation, not allowing time for sleep or rest, and beatings, torture, and sexual abuse. "Many resort to domestic work because of the decline of employment opportunities in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors," Pratchi Talwar, a social activist with Nirmala Niketan, an NGO that works with domestic workers, told DW, adding that domestic workers are vulnerable because they have no formal protection such as unions. Concerned about the mistreatment of domestic workers, India's labor ministry has initiated a policy paper and invited all stakeholders to contribute to a national policy for domestic workers. It is intended to provide them with legal status and the protection of social security. "The policy intends to set up an institutional mechanism for social security coverage, fair terms of employment, addressing grievances and resolving disputes," said Rajit Punhani, director general of labor welfare. "It provides for recognizing domestic workers as a worker with the right to register themselves with the state labor department or any other suitable mechanism." Read more: No social security for most of world's domestic workers A vulnerable population There is no exact figure for the number of domestic workers in India as they are mostly a floating population. Figures released from the National Sample Survey Office estimate they could range from anywhere between 4 to 10 million, many of whom migrate from the eastern states of Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh. But trade unions and organizations working with domestic workers are not convinced that the ministry's policy paper is specific enough. The issue, they argue, has been on the backburner for several years. "These are just guidelines which are not legally enforceable. What happens when there is sexual abuse, withholding salaries and denying leave?" Sonia Rani, project coordinator of the Self-employed Women's Association (SEWA), told DW. "Can the workers go to court? There also has to be a non-negotiable salary regime," she added. Limits of the law Other organizations like the National Domestic Workers Forum argue that neither the Maternity Benefits Act nor the Minimum Wages Act or any of the numerous other labor laws in India apply to domestic work. Domestic workers can be hired and fired at will and employers have no legally binding obligations. "We need to introduce a national policy for domestic workers, begin the process of fixing minimum wages for them and recognize domestic workers as 'workers' with legal rights," Amarjit Kaur, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, told DW. India has only two laws that in a roughly consider maids as workers - the Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act of 2008 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013. While the first law is a social welfare scheme, the other aims to protect working women in general. Importantly, neither law recognizes domestic workers as having legal rights. "This approach by the ministry is piecemeal and not workable. We need to have an omnibus board that looks at the rights of workers employed across sectors from construction and agriculture to domestic," Dunu Roy, social activist who has worked actively in the informal sector, told DW. Read more: Rights group urges justice for Nepali maids allegedly gang raped by Saudi diplomat Roy cites the example of Mathadi workers (head loaders) of Maharashtra, who fought a long and hard battle to secure their wages and are now governed by a welfare board that protects their rights. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has also not been behind in flagging domestic workers as part of the country's invisible workforce and emphasized that more needs to be done to make decent work a reality for them. In welcoming the Indian government initiative to formulate a national policy on domestic workers, the ILO said it is an important step in recognizing the rights of millions of domestic workers. India is a signatory to the ILO's 189th convention, known as the Convention on Domestic Workers, but has not ratified it yet. "Though a number of states in India have been promoting minimum wages for domestic workers, there are not enough mechanisms in place to regulate working conditions of domestic workers,” Suneetha Eluri, ILO's national project coordinator for domestic workers, told DW. Across the world, domestic work is a rapidly growing source of employment for women and girls. Unions and organizations argue that the mindset regarding domestic workers must shift from a policy paradigm to one that focuses on workers' rights. Only then, can domestic workers' rights be defined and protected.

India’s labor ministry is currently preparing legislation to provide social security for domestic workers. But rights groups say more legal protection against mistreatment is necessary. Murali Krishnan reports. Stories of wealthy families in India physically abusing and mistreating young women employed as domestic workers in metropolitan areas are becoming more common in India. In a high-profile case last July, a ... Read More »

Rampaging Jat protesters shut down water supply to New Delhi

The Indian capital, New Delhi, is experiencing a massive water problem after protesters from the Jat community destroyed a canal carrying water to the city. At least five people have died in the unrest. Nearly 20 million people living in New Delhi were suffering severe disruptions on Sunday after caste protests in neighboring Haryana state forced factories to close and schools to be shut down for the next two days. Jat protesters, agitating for quotas in government jobs, have destroyed pumping equipment at a treatment plant in Haryana, which provides most of Delhi's water. Delhi state's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to people to conserve water and said it would be rationed for everyone barring offices and residences of the president, the prime minister, India's chief justice, defense installations, hospitals and fire brigade. Schools were ordered to remain shut on Monday. Kejriwal's government also filed a petition with the Supreme Court to resolve the crisis, but the chief minister said all water treatment plants had been shut and restoring supply would take at least 24 hours. Situation remains tense Meanwhile, fresh violence erupted on Saturday in Haryana despite the deployment of troops to stabilize the situation. "The situation is much more in control than before," Amit Arya, spokesman for Haryana's chief minister, told reporters. The death toll from protests had gone up to seven with around 70 injured, he said. Soldiers from India's army and paramilitary forces were also deployed to stabilize the situation after clashes occurred during the night in Rohtak, the center of the unrest. India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh was expected to visit the area and meet leaders of the Jat community later on Sunday in a bid to defuse the crisis. More than 80 million people in North India belong to the Jat community, which makes up about 25 percent of the population in Haryana. The Indian administrative system reserves jobs and university places for underprivileged members of the lower castes, but the quota has caused resentment among many upper caste communities, including the Jats. India's growing population has increased the demand for secure government jobs and low-cost education in government universities, leading to many communities pressing for preference. Similar protests rocked the country last year, when the Patel community in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, Gujarat, protested for quotas. Officials came down heavily on the protests, arresting their leader, Hardik Patel.

The Indian capital, New Delhi, is experiencing a massive water problem after protesters from the Jat community destroyed a canal carrying water to the city. At least five people have died in the unrest. Nearly 20 million people living in New Delhi were suffering severe disruptions on Sunday after caste protests in neighboring Haryana state forced factories to close and ... Read More »

India paramilitary plane crash leaves 10 dead

A chartered aircraft carrying Indian military personnel has crashed near the capital's main airport. An aviation official said that an inquiry was ordered to determine the cause of the fatal crash. Shortly after the pilot lost contact with ground control, a small Beechcraft Super King carrying eight military engineers and two pilots hit the boundary wall of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi international airport, said Delhi Fire Services' Director A.K. Sharma. The aircraft then landed in a small body of water, leaving parts of it submerged, added Sharma. Carrying technicians of India's Border Security Force, the plane was destined for Ranchi in the eastern state of Jharkhand. The military engineers were meant to repair a helicopter upon arrival in Ranchi, reported AFP news agency. "It's a matter of grave concern that the plane crashed soon after take-off. I am extremely sad to say that all 10 people, including the pilots, have died," said Junior Civil Aviation Minister Mahesh Sharma. "It is not clear yet what caused the accident. We have ordered an inquiry," Sharma added. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to comment on the crash, saying he was pained by the loss of lives in the crash. The crash site is less than a kilometer (0.62 miles) away from an airstrip used by India's security forces, also located at New Delhi's main airport.

A chartered aircraft carrying Indian military personnel has crashed near the capital’s main airport. An aviation official said that an inquiry was ordered to determine the cause of the fatal crash. Shortly after the pilot lost contact with ground control, a small Beechcraft Super King carrying eight military engineers and two pilots hit the boundary wall of New Delhi’s Indira ... Read More »

Indian court overturns Greenpeace operating ban

A court in India has temporarily suspended an order cancelling Greenpeace India's operating license. The environmental organization is now not obliged to close in 30 days. The Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday saved Greenpeace from losing its right to operate in the country by suspending a government order, said the environmental organization. The Indian government had revoked the NGO's license to operate in the country by claiming it had massaged its accounts. The government's allegations were "ridiculous," said Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai in a statement. All donations were published on the NGO's website for everyone to see. According to Pillai, the Interior Ministry in New Delhi was trying to limit freedom of speech. In a leaked secret service report, the Indian government believed that NGOs like Greenpeace were harming the country's economic development as they were opposed to industrial and infrastructure projects. Over the past year and a half, courts in India have decided six times in favor of Greenpeace. The organization had never stopped working in India, according to Greenpeace activist Hozefa Merchant.

A court in India has temporarily suspended an order cancelling Greenpeace India’s operating license. The environmental organization is now not obliged to close in 30 days. The Madras High Court in Chennai on Friday saved Greenpeace from losing its right to operate in the country by suspending a government order, said the environmental organization. The Indian government had revoked the ... Read More »

Merkel puts her weight behind Modi’s ‘Make in India’ drive

جرمن چانسلر انگیلا میرکل اور بھارتی وزیر اعظم نریندر مودی نے توانائی کے شعبے کے علاوہ جرمنی کی بھارت میں سرمایا کاری کی رفتار تیز کرنے سے متعلق متعدد سمجھوتوں پر دستخط کر دیے ہیں۔ بھارتی وزیر اعظم نریندر مودی نے جرمن چانسلر انگیلا میرکل کے ساتھ ملاقات کے بعد کہا کہ جرمنی اور بھارت ’قدرتی ساتھی‘ ہیں اور مستقبل میں دونوں ممالک باہمی اور اقتصادی تعلقات کو مزید بہتر بنیادوں پر استوار کرنے کی کوشش کریں گے۔ میرکل نے اپنے روزہ دورہ بھارت کے دوران بروز پیر نئی دہلی حکومت کے ساتھ نہ صرف متعدد اہم سمجھوتوں کو حتمی شکل دی بلکہ باہمی تعاون کے دیگر امور پر بھی تبادلہ خیال کیا۔ جرمن چانسلر کے ہمراہ ایک اعلیٰ سطحٰی وفد بھی ہے، جس میں شریک نمائندوں نے اپنے متعلقہ بھارتی عہدیداروں سے ملاقاتیں بھی کیں۔ سن 2014 میں ہندو قوم پرست رہنما نریندر مودی کے اقتدار میں آنے کے بعد میرکل کا یہ پہلا دورہ بھارت ہے۔ خبر رساں ادارے اے ایف پی نے ذرائع کے حوالے سے بتایا ہے کہ میرکل نے اس دورے کے دوران پیر کو نئی دہلی میں مودی کے ساتھ طویل مذاکرات کیے۔ اس دوران جرمنی نے بھارتی حکومت کے ساتھ مجموعی طور پر اٹھارہ منصوبوں کو حتمی شکل بھی دی۔ میرکل کے ساتھ تین گھنٹے کی طویل ملاقات کے بعد مودی نے صحافیوں کو بتایا، ’’ہم اقتصادی ترقی کے لیے جرمنی کو اپنا ایک فطری پارٹنر سمجھتے ہیں۔‘‘ انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ بھارت کی ترجیحات اور جرمنی کی مہارتیں ایک دوسرے سے جڑی ہوئی ہیں۔ مودی کا کہنا تھا کہ توانائی کے شعبے میں دونوں ممالک کا تعاون ماحولیاتی آلودگی کے خاتمے کی کوششوں میں مدد دے گا۔ یہ امر اہم ہے کہ بھارت ضرر رساں گیسوں کے اخراج کے حوالے سے دنیا کا تیسرا سب سے بڑا ملک ہے۔ بھارت میں افسر شاہی کا مضبوط نظام وہاں غیر ملکی سرمایا کاری کے لیے ایک بڑی رکاوٹ تصور کیا جاتا ہے۔ متعدد مغربی ممالک اس حوالے سے اپنے تحفظات کا اظہار بھی کر چکے ہیں۔ لیکن مودی نے عہد کیا ہے کہ وہ ان رکاوٹوں کو دور کر دیں گے۔ جرمن وزیر خارجہ فرانک والٹر شٹائن مائر نے بھی کہا ہے کہ بھارت میں سرمایا کاری کے تناظر میں جرمن کمپنیوں کو تحفظات لاحق ہیں کیونکہ وہاں بیوروکریسی کے باعث متعدد مشکلات پیدا ہوجاتی ہیں۔ چانسلر انگیلا میرکل اور جرمن وفد منگل کے دن بنگلور میں مودی کے ساتھ مذاکرات کا سلسلہ جاری رکھے گا۔ اس دوران ایک بزنس فورم کا انعقاد بھی کیا جائے گا، جس میں بھارتی اور جرمن کمپنیوں کے اعلیٰ نمائندے مختلف منصوبوں پر بات چیت بھی کریں گے۔ جرمن چانسلر انگیلا میرکل منگل کے دن ہی دورہ بھارت ختم کرتے ہوئے وطن واپس روانہ ہو جائیں گی۔

India and Germany have significantly scaled up bilateral relations, signing 18 agreements in a range of key sectors designed to bolster trade, energy and defense ties. Murali Krishnan reports from New Delhi. Addressing a joint press conference in the Indian capital New Delhi after three-hour long high-level talks, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked upbeat. ... Read More »

Indian heat wave kills hundreds

The deadly wave of extreme temperatures in India looks set to continue this week, authorities have said. The authorities have promised financial compensation to some of the victims' families. The heat had so far claimed at least 539 lives, killing mostly construction workers, the elderly or the homeless, officials said Monday. The death toll is expected to rise. Southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana suffered the brunt of the heat wave, with temperatures edging towards 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit ) on Sunday. Several dozens of people also died in the Indian capital of New Delhi, with the mercury reaching 43.5. "The majority of the victims are people who have been exposed to the sun directly, usually aged 50 and above and from the working classes," P. Tulsi Rani, special commissioner of Andhra Pradesh's disaster management department, told AFP news agency. The deaths started occurring on Monday last week, according to Rani, but the number increased rapidly towards the end of the week after days of scorching heat. Two taxi drivers have also died in their cars in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state. Heat to continue Government officials in the southern states were struggling to provide drinking water and advised people not to go outside during peak hours. "We are asking them to take precautions like using an umbrella, using a cap, taking a huge quantity of liquids like water and buttermilk, and wearing cotton clothing," Rani said. The state authorities have also set up centers to distribute fluids in urban areas, and canceled the leave of all doctors as hospitals are flooded with people suffering heat stroke. The officials promised compensation of 100,000 rupees ($1,575) for the families of people who had died. The Indian Meteorological Department has issued a red warning to affected regions, saying that the heat wave is likely to persist over coming days. The relief is only expected with the arrival of monsoon, predicted to hit India's coastline on May 31.

The deadly wave of extreme temperatures in India looks set to continue this week, authorities have said. The authorities have promised financial compensation to some of the victims’ families. The heat had so far claimed at least 539 lives, killing mostly construction workers, the elderly or the homeless, officials said Monday. The death toll is expected to rise. Southern states ... Read More »

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