Belapur resident Laxmi Yadav says she was on contract when Water Supply and Sanitation department denied her maternity leave, terminated service.
A proposal by the Women and Child Development Ministry to extend maternity leave for working women from three months to eight months may have set off widespread jubilation across the country, but Laxmi Yadav has a different take on the issue.
Once rules are amended as per the proposal, Belapur resident Laxmi said, they will bring little cheer to women working in various organisations on contract basis.
Citing her experience, Laxmi, 32, said she was compelled to approach the Maharashtra State Commission for Women after her service was terminated when she sought leave during her pregnancy.
“Who are going to be benefitted from these amendments? The laws discriminate unfairly against women working on contract, casual and temporary workers. They are shown the door once they declare that they are expecting a baby. There are two ways pregnant women are treated in India. Either they areover-romanticised or stigmatised. I was fired after becoming pregnant as I was a contract worker,” said Laxmi, the mother of a oneyear-old boy.
Laxmi was working as a documentary consultant with the Water and Sanitation Support Organisation, a project under the state Water Supply and Sanitation department, during 2013-14. After one year, her contract was renewed in December 2013 till November 2014.
In January 2014, when she was two months into her pregnancy, Laxmi contracted some infections and doctors advised her complete bed rest. She applied for leave. As per her contract, she was entitled to eight days of casual leave and a medical leave for 10 days. But the action by her employer left her shocked.
Laxmi said a letter was sent to her home address asking her to return official documents and the laptop allotted to her for work. The communication had a special remark in Marathi. It said, “Shreemati Yadav yaana prasuti raja anudgyey nahi. Tyamule tyanchi seva sampushtat anane avashyak ahe (Mrs Yadav’ services should be terminated because she is not entitled to maternity leave).”
Anguished over the action, Laxmi approached the state women’s commission in October 2014 – the Commission held the first hearing in the matter on August 27. “I’m enjoying my time with my son, but I certainly miss work. Every woman should get maternity leave.
“Does the government think that only a section of women need maternity leave and others who are ‘common women’ do not require it?.” Laxmi said she has no idea when the next hearing will be.
Laxmi said lakhs of women like her will continue to suffer in the absence of an all-compassing legislation.
Trade union leaders have also raised this point in the proposal to amend the rules governing maternity leave. CPI leader Prakash Reddy said, “A large sections of working women lose out on maternity leave because of these so-called labour reforms. If the Modi government is willing to give this right to every working woman of this country, then it should make it compulsory for all establishments.”
Recently contractual workers of National Rural Health Mission were kept out of the ambit of maternity leave with a special government resolution – an appeal has been filed at the Bombay High Court against the resolution.
All India Democratic Women’s Association Vice President Kiran Moghe too criticised the government. She said, “Seventy-five per cent working women who are in unorganised sector are deprived of maternity leave whereas women in organised sector are allowed maternity leave. If the government is serious about women empowerment, then it should be given to women working in unorganised sector too.”
Against the backdrop of the proposal, Ashish Shelar, BJP city chief, had tweeted on Wednesday: “With the Modi govt making a move to provide maternity leave of 8 months in private sector, a pro-women mindset enters work life.”