Bengali maids in Navi Mumbai return home


Their exodus to West Bengal has thrown gated communities into a tizzy as many families are finding it hard to get replacements.

Branded as Bangladeshis, many Bengalispeaking maids working in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, have returned to West Bengal. The pro-CAA agitations, NPR and NRC forced them to abandon work and leave the city.

They have either vacated their rooms in Kopara, Belpada, Pethgao and Morve villages or kept them locked up. Their departure has led to a crisis with housing societies, with many families finding it hard to get replacements.

About 80 families living in Shelter Residency, a gated community in sector 10 of Kharghar, have to make do without maids. “Many of them have left despite having proof of citizenship as they are scared of possible action against them. Already, some people have been asking them for documents. Those working in our area are mostly from West Bengal,” said Sohail Patel, a resident.

The migrant labourers in Kharghar, who work as construction workers, carpenters, tailors, vegetable vendors and domestic helps, live in one/two storey chawls. Those better off have the luxury of renting one-room kitchen with water taps outside the house. The poorer lot live in make-shift arrangements covered with tarpaulin sheets.

This working population also has people from UP, Bihar and Odisha.

In one such village, Sona Sheikh (name changed), a mother of four, was packing her luggage. She lives in a small room with bare-brick walls and a sliver of space for kitchen. “The owner of the house has asked me to leave. He said the police might come after him for keeping my family here,” said Sheikh who claimed that she is not a Bangladeshi but an Indian. “I was born in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district while my sons were born in Mumbai,” she said and added that her husband has left for their native place to get the documents. “I do not feel safe here and decided to move to Chiplun in Konkan region where my brother works as a carpenter,” said a teary-eyed Sheikh. She had left her village and settled in Kharghar in the hope of earning some money and educating her children.

Nafisa Ali (name changed), who works at 10 houses daily and earns about Rs 12000 per month, suffers a similar predicament. Her husband has also left the city and she is now sending her two children back to her village in Bengal’s 24 Parganas. “I have all the documents, including Aadhaar card. But some random people came to our neighbourhood and ordered us to keep the documents ready. I am scared to live and work here,” she said.

A BJP corporator from Kharghar, Naresh Thakur, tried to downplay the exodus of maids. “The residents said that maids are leaving due to the fear of CAA and to procure documents from their villages. I have met some of these helps and asked them not to be afraid. I also called a few chawl owners. Some of the maids have stayed back after my intervention. But this is not a big problem,” he said.

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