28 November, 2020

Inside Slave City

What is it that makes the Indian middle class treat their domestic help with such derision and abuse?

Sandipan Chatterjee
Inside Slave City

In her nine years as a nurse working with rescued domestic workers in Delhi, Mariamma K. thought she had seen the worst. That was until 2010, when she and her colleagues went to rescue a 17-year-old girl from a home in west Delhi. Sangeeta was found with bite marks all over her body. “We were completely shocked. We didn’t know if we were looking at an animal or a human,” recollects Mariamma, who works with Nirmala Niketan, a group fighting for the rights of house-helps.

Her employers initially claimed, quite incredulously, that she was biting herself but that didn’t explain the marks on her neck. They then changed tack—the lady of the house was deemed unstable. “But we didn’t buy that either. Why did she bite only her help and not her children?” argues Mariamma. The matter was later “settled” out of court. The girl’s family got Rs 50,000, after which she was sent back home to Assam.

Mariamma may still be able to recount the worst case of abuse she’s ever...



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