Demand withdrawal of the Central government’s proposed labour code
Shouting slogans, hundreds of domestic workers marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street on Thursday demanding withdrawal of the Centre’s proposed labour code and introduction of a comprehensive law granting social security to domestic workers.
Organised by the National Platform for Domestic Workers (NPDW) and the Central Trade Unions, the march was meant to make a “final appeal to the government” for a comprehensive law, said Nalini Naik, who is associated with the Self-Employed Women’s Federation (SEWA) and is a convener for the NPDW.
A representation was made to the government with over three lakh signatures collected from workers all over the country.
After meeting numerous MPs over the last couple of months, many of the organisers of the march said they were hopeful that a comprehensive legislation would be enacted by the government. But not everyone shared their optimism.
Jaswinder Kaur, a 54-year-old domestic worker from Amritsar in Punjab, said: “Modiji mann ki baat karte hai. Par woh kabhi janta ki baat nahi sunte. [Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks from the heart but never listens to the public].”
Regardless of her opinion, Jaswinder came from Amritsar to make sure her voice was heard.
The protesters listed out numerous concerns, including their inability to get leave from work and lack of dignity accorded to them. One worker spoke of how she was denied the use of her employer’s bathroom and was beaten by a guard when she went to relieve herself in a nearby park.
Many expressed disappointment with the new labour codes proposed by the government. While NPDW convener Verghese Thekkanath said the current draft was “atrocious and anti-workers”, Lizzie Joseph of the Telangana Domestic Workers’ Federation (TDWF) said that “if they [the government] do not listen, it is a sign they do not care”.
Also present at the march was Delhi Congress spokesperson and Delhi Pradesh Mahila Congress president Sharmistha Mukherjee.
Stating that the Congress will “continue to demand legislation”, she said: “The community of domestic workers is one of the most invisible and vulnerable.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who was also present at the march, said: “We are hopeful of bipartisan support. We are working with the government.”