‘Advisory on testing domestic workers for COVID-19 discriminatory and regressive’

They have to undergo RT-PCR testing every fortnight

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) advisory to Residents’ Welfare Associations, which states that domestic help have to undergo RT-PCR testing every fortnight, has been criticised by activists as discriminatory.

Geetha Menon from the Domestic Workers’ Union described the protocol as regressive, humiliating and arbitrary in nature. “Last year, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, nearly 90% of domestic workers did not get paid for two months, as per our survey. They are being economically and socially attacked,” she said. She pointed out that there is no clarity on who should pay for the tests.

Vinay Sreenivasa, advocate and civil rights’ activist, said the protocol was reflective of the COVID-19 management, where the urban poor are largely ignored. “The government seems to be catering only to the middle and upper classes. The BBMP routinely interacts with RWAs and corporate bodies. Not one interaction with workers’ unions. This is just callous management of the pandemic,” he said.

Bangalore Apartments’ Federation, an umbrella organisation of over 900 apartments in the city, has also termed the BBMP’s protocol as regressive. “On the one hand, the BBMP says testing will be prioritised for symptomatic cases and primary/secondary contacts, and on the other, asks RWAs to test the domestic workers. We have sought revised guidelines from the BBMP,” said Vikram Rai, general secretary, BAF.

BAF will adhere to its earlier stand of restricting domestic help, considering the high risk of spread in the second wave. “Domestic workers are as much at risk of contracting the virus from residents, and vice versa,” he added.

Responding to the criticism, BBMP Special Commissioner (Health) P. Rajendra Cholan said he would look into the issue.

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