‘Ban’ in place for two months boils over, cops called by under-fire president even as protesters remain peaceful and residents argue, heckle each other over merits and demerits of ban; no apology or revocation promised after five-hour dharna
Maids not allowed to use lifts, protest held here at Gulmohar Trends. Maids working in the Gulmohar Trends Housing Complex in Dhakoli, Zirakpur, brought the society to a boil on Wednesday as they finally struck work over not being allowed to use the lifts. The society has flats up to the sixth floor besides some independent duplexes, and the maids have been disallowed from using the lifts for the past two months, it has come to light. Some of the maids alleged that they were asked to pay Rs 500 as fine or pull their ears and apologise after they were “caught using the lifts”.
The society president, among other justifications for the “ban”, also said that the maids “get paid, are not doing charity” and that “this is just a ploy to get a salary hike”. The society has over 300 houses and is among the largest and oldest
For the record, the society executive committee even passed a resolution in its general body meeting on December 13 that vendors and maids not be allowed in lifts to “save electricity and also preserve the lifts as they are 10 years old now,” informed the society’s management association president KR Sharma. He said other measures had also been taken to save power and new lifts would cost a lot so it was better to make “optimum use”.
However, on Wednesday, some residents — mostly women hassled after the maids did not show up for work — gathered at the gates where the maids were holding a sit-in and supported them. They also argued vociferously with Sharma, who recently retired from the Haryana sports department and is serving a two-year term as the society head.
Sharma, meanwhile, called the cops who left after a while as the main protesters remained calm through the melee. There was commotion as the residents’ group of women opposing Sharma even locked the gates. Even as the residents indulged in blame-shifting, Sharma, too, eventually left in a huff without talking to the actual protesters, who numbered around 35 and wanted him to apologise besides revoking the ban.
The protest continued for around five hours before the maids dispersed and resolved not to work until an apology and ban revocation was done. Anita Kumari, who led the protest, said, “This is not about comfort or discomfort at all; or about electricity. This discrimination is deep-rooted and this ban only shows it up.”
“Most of the women residents who are now supporting us did not say anything until we struck work,” she added.
Mamta, another protester, described how she was sent by the society’s private guard to the management body’s office after she had used the lift. “The office manager reprimanded me, and asked for Rs 500 as fine. When I said i did not have the money anyway, he asked me to pull my ears and apologise. I refused to take any more of the humiliation and walked away. It was high time we protested.” Pooja shared a similar story even as the office staff rubbished the allegations.
Sharma said the lift maintenance company had suggested the measure “as this is done in other cities and other places too”. “We allow older maids, and those physically challenged or pregnant maids to use the lifts.”
However, another maid who did not want to be named, said she was not allowed to use the lift even when she was in the middle of her menstrual period. “I could not explain it to the male guards and they did not understand when I said I had a stomach-ache,” she said.