The latest United Nations Development Programme report has uncovered that 40 per cent of the domestic servants working in homes in Mumbai, India's richest city are under age 15. According to this enlightening report this number is increasing at an alarming rate, rather than decreasing.
"About 40 per cent of the domestic help were girls under 15 years of age. A substantive section of domestic help comprises girls, working for precarious wages and their numbers appear to have increased," said the Human Development Report compiled by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the UNDP.
But the 2001 Census indicated that there were just 1,297 girls as main workers and 209 girls as marginal workers in the city. That does not reflect the reality on the ground and apparently official data on child labour is grossly underestimated. If one considers the children working in Mumbai's local trains, grocers, shoe-shine boys, newspaper vendors, waste pickers, hawkers, vendors, domestic workers, baby sitters, coolies, helpers in shops, the real picture will emerge.
"Often these young domestic helpers are abused, verbally and physically and also sexually exploited," said the report.
Recently two small-time showbiz actors from Mumbai were arrested for allegedly physically abusing and torturing their minor maid servants. In August this year, police arrested actress Urvashi Dhanorkar for allegedly physically and mentally torturing her 10-year-old domestic help Rameshwari Jadhav. Dhanorkar was released on bail within a few hours of her arrest. And in May 2007 a case was registered against singer-actress Suchitra Krishnamoorthy's mother for allegedly employing a minor in her home. The charges were later dropped. In February last year another actress, Huma Khan, was arrested for alleged illegal confinement and rape of a minor maid servant
Another eye-opener is the fact is that if a mother works as domestic help in a home she often takes her girl child along, as her assistant, unpaid. This leads to the girl growing up to become a domestic servant too.