The central government declared yesterday that it was going to crack down on the illicit recruitment of domestic workers from India, rampant in the Gulf and other countries. But the Minister for External Affairs, V K Singh, seems to have cooked up the most arbitrary way to tackle this: He announced that the government had decided that no women domestic workers under the age of 30 — a figure seemingly picked at random for which he hasn’t provided an explanation yet — can take up employment abroad. It’s hard to fathom what exactly is going on here. Does the government assume that once women turn 30, they are suddenly unassailable and secure from trafficking?
Singh also said that a ‘national repository’ will be put in place with details of workers and their qualifications to ensure that agents don’t take them for a ride by promising them a certain quality of life. This new stipulation, presumably meant to enhance the safety standards for women domestic workers, sounds alright. But the government might do well to turn its gaze inwards for just a second, and do something about the trafficking that goes on within the country, because there is no effective national legislation to protect them yet.
Last week, a 24-year-old woman died of injuries in a hospital after a long and tortuous ordeal: she was apparently trafficked from West Bengal three years ago and brought to Delhi, where she was serially abused by the people who employed her. According to Swati Maliwal, Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, she looked starved and had been beaten up with iron rods. Instead of spending all its time coming up with somewhat obscure schemes related to what Singh calls ‘the housemaid issue’ abroad, the central government should strive to make India a safer place for the approximately 50 million women domestic workers.