- Child fell to her death from 9th-floor apartment last week
- Was hired by Bengaluru couple through Delhi agency
- 150 other young girls placed as domestic help by same agency
Bengaluru: It was 9 pm on a weekend when the body of a young girl was found at an apartment building in a fancy neighbourhood in Bengaluru. Phoolmuni, 12, fell from the ninth floor to her death, the police says. Her employers, a married couple named Vishal Mutt, who is a chartered account, and Garima Grover, a dentist, were not home when she fell last week. They have now been charged with aiding her suicide.
They have told the police that they did not know their maid of nearly two years was just a child. They hired her through a placement agency in Delhi which supplies domestic help.
“As it turns out, the girl’s father was looking for her for nearly two years,” said Geeta Menon of Stree Jagruti Samiti, a Bengaluru charity which works to promote the rights of domestic workers. “It took days to track him and when he came to take his daughter’s body back home, he was just heart-broken.”
The police believes the child, whose family is from Assam, was trafficked along with nearly 150 others, all younger than 18, by an agency in Delhi called Milan Enterprises, whose offices have been raided recently; four people have been arrested for supplying the minors, most of them from northeastern states, as domestic help across the country. They were treated as bonded labour, with the agency pocketing their salaries; all they got was food and clothes from their employers.
“These girls are purchased from their parents and then taken to Delhi. From there, they are taken to different cities. We believe it’s a big network. Further probe is on” said, Hemanth Nimbalkar, Additional Commissioner of Police..
There are an estimated 50 million domestic workers in India, most of them women and girls, who are often exploited in the absence of any legal protection.
A bill to improve working conditions for domestic workers by introducing a minimum salary, social security cover and mandatory time off is still awaiting cabinet approval.
“With many northern states framing laws to regulate people being hired as domestic work, south India seems to have become a safe haven for agents,” Ms Menon said.