It was 9 in the night when Dr Ramooz along with his daughter and wife and a few relatives were coming back home from a family function. However, after repeated knocks their domestic help Dinesh did not open the main gate.
After waiting for half an hour outside the gate, the family got apprehensive and one of the relatives climbed over the wall and opened the gate from inside.
“We thought that he might have slept and did not know about our presence. My brother-in-law climbed over the wall and opened the gate from inside,” Dr Ramooz recalled.
The family entered their house only to hear the loud sound of music coming from the help’s quarters.
Keeping in mind the recent episode of Lal Bazar where a domestic help killed an elderly woman, Dr Ramooz told his wife and daughter to enter the main house and lock the door and windows.
“I called my nephew and I narrated the episode to him. He broke the door of help’s quarters and found that there was no one inside. All his clothes and essential things were missing. Then we checked all the rooms of our house to secure ourselves. At last I remembered the cash that I had kept in my room and hastily rushed to my room only to find out that all the cash was missing from the locker. It was around Rs 4 lakh,” Dr Ramooz recounted.
After learning about the missing cash, Dr Ramooz immediately called Madeeha placement agency Rambagh Srinagar – a place which provides domestic helpers to the people, but the mobile was switched off.
Later the family checked their CCTV footage and came to know that Dinesh had taken cash and run away.
“Next day I went to their office along with my nephew to inform them about the incident but they seemed least bothered about it. Instead of informing police to nab the culprit they were talking about providing another helper. I told them to share his contact and personal details so that I can inform police but I was shocked to learn that they have no document of him,” Dr Ramooz rued, adding, “the agency provided the phone number of this man and when we called, his brother-in-law received the call and informed that he is a known criminal and is involved in many theft cases.”
The incident happened on December 29 and the family registered the case and the missing complaint of their help in the Sadder police station Baghat on the very next day.
Dr Ramooz said the placement agency has already taken one year’s advance from them and this is not the first time that the people provided by them have run away.
On Sunday, Pathankot police called Dr. Ramooz asking him to identify a person arrested at the check-post in Pathankot along with some cash.
An official of Punjab police said, “we did not have any information about the incident, it was a regular checking going on at one of the check posts and we found this person suspicious and checked his belonging and asked him about this identity. Out of nervousness he revealed everything. We contacted Srinagar police and came to know about the incident.”
The official said that Dinesh is in police remand and he has said he did not get his salary by the agency for the last 5 months which is why he run away with cash.
“His name is Dinesh, age 35-40 and he is from Gwalior. He has been charged with IPC 411. The placement agencies should be held for exploitation of these workers and not providing salary to them on time,” he added.
This is not the first incident that was reported in Kashmir. On December 16, an elderly woman was killed by a non-local helper who ran away with valuable items. Later the accused was arrested by the police.
Days after Lal Bazar incident took place, another incident was reported in Dargah area where three non-local labourers working in Dummies Restaurant fled along with cash of Rs. 70,000.
“Two of the three helpers were working with us or the last four months and one was new. On December 19, all the three labourers were missing along with the cash. We immediately reported the incident in the Nigeen police station but till date nothing has been done to nab the accused,” said Adil Mir, Manager of the restaurant.
Many of the helpers have run away after not getting paid on time by the agencies despite taking years of salary in advance from the customers.
Mir Shafi, a retired government employee from Hawal faced a similar experience.
“I am in late 60s and could not afford to go market for essential things and my wife also cannot do daily chores. My daughters are all married and my son is outside the country. We live alone and had to hire a helper from the same agency but many of them have run away,” Ahmad said.
The agency makes an agreement with their customers to deposit the yearly salary in the office of agency and even as multiple cases show that no money is given to the helpers provided by the agency.
“We do not give salaries to the helpers but we deposit money for one year in the agency’s account and they have to provide them salary every month. The agency directs people not to give money to the helper but the agencies do not provide salaries to the helpers on time,” Ahmad detailed.
Speaking to the FPK, Assistant Labor Commissioner, Arshid Ahamd said, “our responsibility is to monitor the wages and minimum wages of labours. We act on complaint, if any one registers a complaint in my office, we will take strict action against the accused after proper verification.”
Muzaffer Ahamd, owner of Madeeha Placement agency told FPK that at the time of agreement the customer is informed not to keep valuable items in home as the agency is not responsible for it.
When asked about the verification process of the people they provide to the people, Muzaffer said, “we bring these people from the agents outside. We do the verification of these people by checking their Adhaar cards and ask police to do the verification.”
He claimed that they provide time to time salaries to these helpers who work in different places in Kashmir.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Srinagar, Rakesh Balwal told Free Press Kashmir that three placement agencies have been closed by Raj Bagh Police station.
“With the help of DC srinagar and in sadar PS area we have called all the placement services to provide records of their customers and agents from whom they get these non local labourers,” he said.
“We will ensure compliance by all placement agencies in next few days,” he added.