As the coronavirus beats down the country’s economy, snatching away the livelihoods of many, among those immediately affected are domestic workers. In this scenario, an advertisement by Kent RO systems, suggesting ways to prevent COVID-19, has been called out.
The ad, featuring the iconic ‘dream girl’ Hema Malini, designed for Instagram by iMart advertising agency, read, “Are you allowing your maid to knead atta dough by hand? Her hands may be infected. Don’t compromise on health and purity. Choose Kent atta and bread maker for hands-free kneading of dough. Let automation take care of hygiene this time.”
Arundhati Ghosh, executive director, India Foundation of Arts, says, “Domestic workers are the most vulnerable and affected during this pandemic, struggling with loss of pay, stigma and no real means of resurrecting their lives. These sort of casteist and classist campaigns cripple their steps towards restoration of normalcy even further.
Companies with budgets big enough to hire Bollywood stars must pause and strategise their advertisements better, instead of merely playing to fear psychosis and prejudice. Such narratives should find no place in our society. Anything that blatantly insults and demeans a section of people must be called out and makers of such campaigns taken to task.
Calling for immediate action, the Domestic Workers Union of Karnataka issued a statement saying, “Our union conducted a survey that revealed that the impact of Covid-19 has been tremendous! 80 per cent of domestic workers have been told not to come to work and this is without pay, effectively keeping them out of work for two months! 70 per cent have not been paid their April salaries, 50 per cent of those above 50 years have been dismissed arbitrarily. Many employers have cited hygiene as a cause.
Fear mongering during these times disadvantages the domestic workers. We call on the advertising council of India to immediately take appropriate action.”
Janet D’Souza, former chairperson of the Minorities Commission of Maharashtra, says, “Some employers lock themselves in a room when their maids enter; others have told the domestic workers not to use lifts and not to sit in their compounds, and are asking as many uncomfortable questions as possible.
There is a clear prejudice already. As an elected representative of the people, Hema Malini should have known better than to endorse something so down right tasteless.”
Ace musician T.M. Krishna tweeted, “This ad shouldn’t surprise us as this is who we are,” implying that we as a people are often quick to judge and push prejudices.
Speaking of this mindset, social activist Sherin Bosko said, “While thousands were rendered jobless and stranded, some people have used the lockdown to display their culinary genius and fancy liquor collection. Companies like Kent RO have tapped into that mentality of the upwardly mobile who are so detached from the plight of the less fortunate. Capitalism seems to play on this deep-rooted bigotry.”