Beware: Your domestic help may be infected

Srinagar: Srinagar Municipal Corporation on Friday issued an advisory urging the city residents to conduct medical examination of non-local domestic helpers before engaging them.
In the advisory, Corporation’s Health Officer Dr Shafqat Khan said, “It has been observed that a large number of male/female domestic workers are being hired for domestic work/help. These domestic helpers/workers are prone to many communicable diseases like worm infestation, harmful bacterial/viral fungus diseases, which are communicated especially to children.”
Every year, thousands of non-local labourers, both skilled and unskilled, arrive in the Kashmir Valley to earn their livelihood. Some of the non-locals, including women and children, find begging lucrative, while some women prefer the jobs of baby sitters in the well-off Kashmiri families against hefty salaries. The dependency on the non-local domestic help has also led to mushrooming of consultancies, who arrange the domestic help against hefty engagement fee ranging between Rs 25,000 to 40,000. Most of these consultancies operate in uptown and civil lines are of the city without the approval of the SMC.
“Last year, I visited a consultancy in Sanat Nagar area to seek the services of a maid for our house. The officials promised to send a maid to my house within 15 days if I pay them Rs 25,000 as engagement fee. I was stunned and surprised,” Khan Meraj, a resident of Hyderpora told Kashmir Reader on Friday.
Besides the engagement fee, the consultancy, Meraj said, also asked him to pay monthly salary of Rs 8000 to the maid. “I was also asked to provide meals, clothing and shelter to the domestic help. It’s bizarre. People are being looted,” he added.
Acknowledging that many illegal consultancies are running without any registration or permission from the government, SMC’s Health Officer told Kashmir Reader that he’ll take up the issue with the Labour Department.
“There are a lot of agencies running illegally. They have not obtained registration from SMC or any other government department. We’ll write to the Labour Department and ask them to initiate strict action against the unauthorized agencies. We’ll see that they don’t flourish,” he said.
Every year, the Health Officer said, around 30,000 non-locals visit Kashmir for work. Some work as domestic help, while others work as skilled and unskilled labourers, he said, adding that instances have been found when the domestic help have communicated worm infestation to the children of the employer.
“The domestic help concerns us more because their hygienic conditions are not good. They don’t remain neat and clean. And the same can led to viral and bacterial infection among the children of their employer,” Dr Khan said.
He said the SMC’s advisory was aimed to create awareness among the people, and that the Health Department can get the screening of the domestic help done.
“The Health Department should take a call now. The residents should also hire the domestic help after conducting their proper medical checkup through a physician,” the SMC’s Health Officer added.