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Bill to safeguard domestic helps remains on backburner

AMBIKA PANDIT IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: The torture of a help in upscale Vasant Kunj has highlighted the lack of a legal framework governing domestic work. While the demand for a national legislation gets louder, the Delhi government’s draft bill limited to placement agencies-put up for objections and suggestions in August 2012-is nowhere close to becoming law.

Various surveys by voluntary organizations show that there are more than 2,000 placement agencies in the capital and nearly half of these engage tribal girls from Jharkhand. The bill was initially delayed by a debate over increasing its scope beyond domestic workers engaged by placement agencies.

Finally, it was agreed to restrict the bill to placement agencies for domestic workers. Based on the objections and suggestions, some changes were made to the final draft. For instance, it was proposed to also register the link person who introduces the domestic worker to a placement agency, to guard against trafficking.

The draft bill had created a flutter among NGOs, with activists claiming it was riddled with loopholes. It came under severe criticism from representatives of around 12 NGOs. Since then the bill has been caught in debates over its provisions, and now, with the code of conduct for the polls expected to come into force soon, the government is unlikely to formalize the final bill.

Rishikant, from the NGO Shakti Vahini, who carried out the rescue operation in Vasant Kunj along with other social workers said, “Just implementing an Act in Delhi will not help as the problem is national. Domestic workers are being brought from states like West Bengal and Jharkhand. A national plan of action is needed for placement agencies to ensure coordination between states.” Social activist Subhash Bhatnagar said the government’s focus on regulating agencies is misplaced and monitoring employers who engage domestic workers is critical.

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