Recent move by a housekeeping service provider to ban Bollywood celebrities from its client list has blown the lid off how these employers treat their domestic help. Speaking to various service provider agencies, we find that the stories range from waking the cook up with a kick to withholding their salary because “there’s not enough work”.
The maids sometimes report this to their agencies. The agency owners try to take this up. The celebrity clients pull strings or issue threats. The police are of no help. And going by what several agency owners say, it’s the women celebs who mistreat their staff more than the men do.
Bollywood celebrities physically harass maids, claims viral blog on Book My Bai
An agency owner who wishes to remain anonymous says, “Alone, I can’t raise my voice. If four-five agencies come together and ask for my opinion, then I will speak out. But if I do it on my own, I’ll create problems for myself.”
Abhishek Sable, director at Happy Maids Service, says, “I have stopped taking contracts from Bollywood. In the beginning, around three years ago, I provided house help to five-six celebrities. In my experience, only a few celebs are good. The others never gave [the maids] decent food. And if they didn’t like the food that the cook had made, they would throw the plate at their face. Gaali toh unke mooh pe rehti thi.
“They would come home late at night and wake the cook up with a kick and tell them to cook [right then]. We tried going to the police, but to no avail. One actor falsely accused a maid of theft. When I took her to the police, she contacted some minister and the case was dismissed. One Marathi [female] actor also had problems with the caste of the staff. She said she didn’t want people from the Ambedkar caste as, in her opinion, they are dirty. She threatened me with murder and also called a minister.”
Alone, I can’t raise my voice. If four-five agencies come together and ask for my opinion, then I will speak out. But if I do it on my own, I’ll create problems for myself: An agency owner
Mohit Yadav, Honest Enterprises, says, “So far, I haven’t got any case of physical abuse, but [the celebs] threaten and abuse the staff. They keep the staff awake till very late. In the contract, I give it to them in writing that I won’t be responsible if a household help quits for being abused or ill-treated, nor will I provide a replacement. Many times, the servants don’t even report these incidents to us, as the employers take big names and threaten them. Mostly, bigger stars contact us through their secretaries, but television actors directly contact us. If I don’t like their behaviour or attitude when meeting them, I refuse [the service].”
Another service provider, on condition of anonymity, says, “Just recently, I got a query from a Bollywood actor for two domestic helps — one for looking after the dog, the other to take care of the upper floor. They quoted a salary of Rs 12,000 each. I sent one person to their house, but when it was time to pay the salary, they only paid Rs 8,000, saying, ‘We have a lot of staff, but very few people to be taken care of’. It all depends on their mood; if they don’t like a maid’s services, they deduct an entire month’s salary. When we say we’ll approach the police, they retaliate by saying they’re not scared. The police are of no help. These instances are not just restricted to big stars; even struggling actors, models and television actors do it.”
Screengrab of Anupam Singhal’s blog post. The co-founder of Book My Bai, he decided to put a blanket ban on Bollywood celebrities as his clients. Here, he lists out some examples of harassment and abuse meted out to domestic help.
Anupam Singhal, co-founder of Book My Bai and writer of the blog post exposing the celebs, says, “We provide over 2,000 maids in a month. We’ve provided help to around 35 celebrities, out of which around 26 such cases have come to me. [The maid] has placed her trust in us and my responsibility is to get her a good job at a good household. And when I know my experience with Bollywood celebrities has been bad, I have no reason to get her a job there. I also have examples where the celebrity has taken very good care of the maids. But in the majority of the cases, some sort of abuse or exploitation has happened. We have a few pending requests from celebrities that we’re turning down now.
If I take a name, the celebrity slaps a defamation case against [our] company. The maid should stand next to me and say that she’ll go to the police and file a case. Otherwise, I would have nothing to prove: Anupam Singhal, owner, Book My Bai
“It’s inhuman to have physical abuse, verbal abuse, economic abuse. Maids are not paid salaries for months together. That’s the reason I came out and wrote the blog, because many of them are role models, some even National Award winners.
“If I take a name, the celebrity slaps a defamation case against [our] company. The maid should stand next to me and say that she’ll go to the police and file a case. Otherwise, I would have nothing to prove. Most of these maids refrain from going to the police because they say they’ve come here to earn money and not get into legal hassles. There’s a social stigma about what their families will think.”
Another service provider, on condition of anonymity, says, “An incident took place at an actor’s house. She is divorced with two children and comes from a family of actors. Who maid ko time pe khaana nahi dete the. Whatever was left over from their parties, they’d feed her that. We can’t leave the maids in such conditions. These things happen with stars. Hum zada inn logo ka kaam nahi lete hain, kyuki inke complaints aate rehte hain. They also create problems with salary — they feel that people are dying to work at their houses, so they can decide what they want to pay.”