Express press service
NEW DELHI: Alice Shyjen came to Delhi three years ago looking for a job. Widowed, she had come all the way from Kerala, leaving behind her two children with a relative. She eventually got a call from a home nursing recruitment agency and landed a job with a patient in West Delhi. With the income from this new job, Shyjen, 48, hoped to finally be able to build a house in her village in Idukki district.
Shyjen barely knew that having a house would remain a dream. Even as the deadly Covid pandemic swept through the city, she continued the work. Then came the shock; despite the risks she took, the agency did not pay her the agreed amount of Rs 55,000 per month.
The home nurse claims that she has only received part of the salary and an amount of Rs 5.40 lakh is still pending for her 15 months of work. She laments that the agency keeps delaying the case and asks her to come back later. “At first they promised to give me my money back as soon as things were back to normal, but later they refused to compensate me and told me I could go to court if I wanted to,” Shyjen explains.
Going to court may not help because the helpless woman does not have a written contract with her. Shyjen says recruiting agencies don’t usually sign contracts with nurses and it’s only a verbal contract between them. “When I contacted the family of the patient where I worked for 15 months, they told me that they had already paid the money to the agency,” laments Shyjen.
According to Joshy Mathew, president of the United Nursing Association, several nurses have had a similar experience in the city. He says nurses are hired quickly but have to wait a long time to be paid. “Recruitment agencies do not prefer formal written contracts for nurses. The agencies exploit them and make them wait for the money which usually comes after a lot of it has been deducted by the agencies,” says Mathew.
About 8,000 home nurses work in Delhi, of which about 3,000 to 4,000 come from Kerala. Mathew says nurses are worried about filing complaints because they could end up losing their jobs. In addition to their miseries, nurses are abused in many families, says Mathew. “Many quit their jobs because families don’t treat them with respect,” adds Mathew.
He also alleges that most recruitment agencies operating in the nation’s capital do not have valid licenses. “Nearly 95 percent of recruitment agencies do not have a government license or registration and no proper office. They operate through their phones,” he says