The 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.
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.”
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.”
are not just restricted to big stars; even struggling actors, models and television actors do it.”