Are we invisible? Domestic Worker Anjuman Bibi asks, in light of lockdown

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Name: Anjuman Bibi
Age: 24 years
Location: Gurgaon, Haryana

 

Anjuman Bibi reports from Gurgaon: I am originally from West Bengal but I live in Gurgaon, where I work as a domestic worker and live with my three children (two daughters and a son).

I am currently out of work and my income has come to a standstill. This makes me anxious and scared every waking moment, because now I am forced to spend on rations and other essentials from our savings. I have no idea what will happen once this runs out. My husband had gone back to the village (in Bengal) for some work, and he is faced with a similar crunch.

In addition to this, all the shopkeepers in our area are taking advantage of the situation and have increased the price of commodities. The oil we used to purchase for Rs. 110 is now being sold at Rs. 250. Gas prices have been increased, and so has the price of vegetables. If this inflation continues, where will we get the money? We may just die of starvation.

In order to save money, we are now eating one square meal per day, and kill any remaining hunger with tea and biscuits. I go out occasionally leaving my kids behind, to get more supplies, but because of such high prices, we aren’t even buying essentials now. The government should step in and prevent such price-fixing and they should make ensure equal distribution of rations to those in need.

Our landlords have been asking for rent and refusing to forgo this month’s payment. If they choose to evict us, I will have nowhere else to go. However, our employers have been kind enough to give us paid leave; they also call us to ask if we need more money. But if the prices are so high, how long can we keep asking them for money?

Whatever information I’ve received on Coronavirus is from television and WhatsApp. I tell everyone to wash their hands with soap regularly, cut their nails and keep their house clean. I use masks while going out, clean myself every time I return home from the market, clean all the food we buy before cooking them. I am trying my best to maintain distance from everyone. I had gone to meet Khadija and watch TV at her place (I don’t have a telly set at mine), but we all sat at a distance from each other. If anybody comes to my house, I don’t let them enter and insist that we talk outside.

I hear the government is supporting labourers and workers but I am yet to see it personally. Nobody has approached us yet. Once, a policeman came over with our landlord, noted all our names, checked our IDs – claiming it was about free rations. I saw on TV that the government is planning to send money through direct bank transfer, but I have no idea when or how we will receive it.

Ever since the lockdown began, it feels like our struggles have become even more invisible – nobody’s reached out to ask how we are faring in this lockdown.


 

This report was compiled by Surbhi Kumar and edited by Prarthana Mitra, Programme Officers at Martha Farrell Foundation.

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