Should house-helps be allowed in gated-societies? RWAs don't think so
Lockdown 4.0, as assured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came with a limited set of restrictions. Offices were allowed to open, markets unlocked their shutters, and people started stepping out. These relaxations (though ill-thought through) didn't mean much for some, courtesy rules of Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs). We spoke to some office-bearers to understand if they are imposing restrictions, defying the diktat of government.
To keep a check on the spread of coronavirus, district administrations have left it on RWAs to frame rules. Some went on an overdrive, banning people from stepping out for walks and putting a strict restriction on entry of outsiders (even for essential services). In one society, residents were asked to get their house-help tested for COVID-19, a move that miffed many.
On the flak which RWAs are receiving, Pankaj Mittal, the treasurer of RWA Vivek Vihar, Delhi, hinted that the welfare of natives is important. Speaking to NewsBytes, Mittal, who runs a business, said the government should have extended the lockdown till June because controlling everyone has become impossible now. "When government relaxed curbs, how can we stop anyone from roaming," he asked.
Over a month ago, the RWA wrote to the local police station asking to block a crucial road, fearing a spike in infections. The road was never barricaded, lamented Mittal. "There are a few slums near Vivek Vihar, and people move freely. We wanted to completely cut off outsiders' movement but that didn't happen," he said. The RWA manages approximately 1-1.5 lakh people.
When asked if the association is making any rules, Mittal denied. "If blocks decide to shut gates on their own, that's their call," he explained. In the new bout of restrictions, women from slums enter the society for alms, but RWA can't do anything, he said. "You see, we will cross 3 lakh infections by May 30. Relaxations shouldn't have been given," he opined.
Mittal said social distancing isn't followed in nearby slums. "Everyone is rich, sab kothi wale hain. We can't restrict movement, only police can. Vivek Vihar doesn't have a single COVID-19 case, but I don't know for how long this will be maintained," he said. He stressed it's their job to ask citizens to remain indoors. "Defying or following is up to them," he added.
During the first three phases of lockdown, the elderly didn't face any problems, he asserted. The RWA tasked four people with helping the elderly with medicines, rations, etc. All the elderly had to do was text them. The association connected them with local doctors too, who could advise them on their health. "We also feed 1,000-1,200 people daily through our Ram Mandir," Mittal said.
While Mittal seemed unhappy with the relaxations and expressed displeasure over the movement of the public, the secretary of Vivek Vihar (AWHO), Sector 82, Noida, said people are abiding by the rules in the society. The secretary, who chose to remain anonymous, said residents have largely been cooperative. "We have made masks compulsory. The housekeeping staff takes care of the sanitization," he said.
The office-bearer said the society is divided into blocks, and the members spoke to residents to understand if they wish for house-helps to be allowed. "The majority wanted to wait for some weeks. They have been managing for two months now. No one wants to put others at risk," he said. Those who own shops in the society also follow all precautions, he added.
"We have allowed people to go for walks between 7 and 10 in the morning and 4 pm-7 pm. Electricians are allowed, but we check ID cards etc. This is important if someone needs to be traced later," he explained.
When told that workers aren't getting paid in some gated societies, the secretary laughed it off. "We have paid till the last penny to everyone, including housekeeping staff," he told us. The society is largely occupied by army veterans, so maintaining discipline isn't a hurdle. The person said the residents clapped and cheered for workers too. "It's important to keep them motivated," he said.
In yet another gated society in Noida, the residents have been bombarding RWA with questions regarding the relaxations. Umashankar Sharma, a 39-year-old IT professional, who is the president of RWA, Purvanchal Silver City, Sector 93, Noida, noted residents cooperated till lockdown 3.0. "But when the government extended relaxations, we were forced to dilute rules. We allowed house-helps from today," he revealed.
Though domestic helps have been allowed, some rules have been imposed. "One house-help can enter only one house between 8 am and 11 am. Once car-cleaners and house-helps leave, we sanitize the entire premises. We are planning to give relaxation related to walks. We can't lift all curbs at once," he said, arguing that restrictions helped the society stay coronavirus-free.
When asked how the RWA helped senior citizens, Sharma said they didn't want them to leave homes. "So, we came up with a plan to help 30-35 elderly couples. Housekeeping staff was asked to clean their homes on alternate days. We also had a cook, who could whip meals for them. We gave a two-wheeler to a person, who brought groceries, medicines," he disclosed.
The list of demands is, however, growing. "We have a parlor in our society and residents are asking when it will be opened for business," he stated. The society houses 644 apartments. However, if government has now decided to resume domestic flights and couldn't control the migrant crisis, are the residents wrong in asking for house-helps to return? You decide.