The debt keeps on mounting; I feel I am trapped in a vicious circle

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My name is Ratna and I am 37 years of age. I am a resident of Govindpuri in New Delhi. I have moved to Delhi from Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. I have been working as a domestic worker for as long as I can remember.

These are challenging times for me and my family. I used to work in four households as a domestic worker but when the lockdown was imposed in March last year, I lost all my jobs. I have been unemployed since then. My husband has lost all his work too. He used to be a Palmist but due to the pandemic, he doesn’t get any customers. With the social distancing norms in place, nobody visits to show their hand.

My husband is prone to drug abuse. It is very difficult to live with him. I have always wanted to open a shop and support my family, and I feel I can. But I need to dip into the family finances for that, and every time I suggest it, my husband gets violent. He has beaten me in front of my daughter as well. I am sick and tired of the torture.

I have three daughters and two of them are married. I took a loan of 7 lakh rupees for their marriage. Now the money lenders keep on asking for the instalments but I am unable to pay. I haven’t had a single job in 1.5 years, how can I pay them?

Whenever I call my employers for work, they tell me to sit at home. I tried looking for work at other places as well but currently, no one is hiring.

Having tea even once a day is no longer affordable to us. Currently, we survive on whatever ration our relatives give to us. I do not have a ration card but we collect ration through donation drives whenever they are distributing in our area. But it only lasts for a few weeks.

The stress of all this has taken a toll on my body and my mental health. I suffer from thyroid issues but since we can no longer afford the treatment, I had to stop my medication.

I feel useless sitting at home. I am constantly worrying about paying back the loan. The debt keeps on mounting; I feel I am trapped in a vicious circle.

This story is a part of MFF’s Lockdown Stories series, which consist of everyday lived experiences of domestic workers in the COVID-19 Second Wave. There’s no data around the needs and experiences of domestic workers in this fight against the coronavirus. MFF along with its partner networks is attempting to bridge this gap. Join us in advocating for change and ensuring protection for domestic workers through prioritised vaccinations, relief package distribution and all other benefits being extended to frontline workers.

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