Seema Patra’s Brutality Exposed By Son; Recent Cases Of Domestic Help Abuse, Laws In India

Patra, who was arrested by Jharkhand police on Wednesday for abusing her 29-year-old house help, Sunita, for several years, was initially reported by her own son.

Seema Patra
Suspended BJP leader Seema Patra being arrested by police on allegations of torturing her 29-year-old tribal help Sunita, in Ranchi, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The revelation of brutal torture of a tribal domestic help at the hands of suspended BJP leader Seema Patra has shaken the conscience of the nation. Patra, who was arrested by Jharkhand police on Wednesday for abusing her 29-year-old house help, Sunita, for several years, was initially reported by her own son.

It was Seema Patra’s son who showed a video of the atrocities borne by Sunita to his friend, who was a government official, and sought help. Acting on a tip-off from the government employee, the Ranchi Police rescued the woman from Patra’s residence last week and recorded the her statement on Tuesday before a magistrate.

Patra had allegedly kept the woman captive in her residence in Ranchi’s posh Ashok Nagar area for several years. The BJP leader was suspended from the party after a video of the woman narrating her ordeal went viral on social media.

Here are some cases of violence against domestic helpers and what the law states:

Domestic Help Abuse Cases

  • May, 2022: Domestic help working in Rajouri Garden apparently faced months of physical abuse at the hands of the couple she worked for. She was a native of Siliguri, West Bengal. She was allegedly beaten up and her hair chopped off. 
  • 2018: 15-year-old domestic worker Soni Kumari was murdered for demanding her wage. She had gone missing from Jharkhand and was working at Delhi’s East of Kailash. 
  • 2017: A 26-year-old domestic worker from Bangladesh lodged a complaint with the Indian police saying she had been beaten up and held captive by her employers at home located in the upscale gated community of Noida. 
  • 2013: A 35-year-old help was found dead in the home of an MP. The MP and his wife used to beat and torture the help with sticks, iron rods, an iron and the horns of a dead animal.  

Laws On Domestic Help in India 

Currently, India has two laws, in a roundabout way, which treat domestic help as workers: Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, (UWSSA) and Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. 

Former is a social welfare scheme and the latter aims to protect working women in general. However, neither recognises domestic help as rights-bearing workers. 

The Domestic Workers (Registration, Social Security and Welfare) Act, 2008 (2020) was introduced to regulate payment and working conditions and check exploitation and trafficking of women and other young household workers. However, Central government has not notified it.  

The Ministry of Labour and Employment considering to formulate National Policy on Domestic Workers which is in the draft stage. Its salient features are:  

  • Inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislation 
  • Domestic workers will have right to register as unorganised workers
  • Right to form associations/unions
  • Right to minimum wages, access to social security 
  • Protection from abuse and exploitation
  • Mechanism for regulation of domestic workers

(With inputs from Mukta Kaushik)

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