Besides drastically altering and challenging our ways of life, the coronavirus pandemic has served an important function of laying bare our humanity or the lack of it, for the most part. All through the lockdown, we have witnessed lakhs of migrant labourers and domestic workers across the country being rendered absolutely jobless during the lockdown. Without an iota of doubt, all of us are responsible for this failure. All thanks to our classist and capitalist attitudes we have nicely failed at being our most basic selves: humans!
But do we learn from our mistakes? Not so much! Kent RO's latest ad campaign for its Atta and Bread Maker serves as a very good example of the same.
While the campaign has been removed from Kent's official page, screenshots from it have been doing rounds on Twitter. The campaign runs in a series of images and opens up by asking "Are you allowing your maid to knead your atta dough by hand" and then goes on saying "her hands may be infected." The advertisement explicitly states that the customers should not "compromise on health and purity" and while that is absolutely all right, implying that your domestic workers might do so is not. The organisation has used words like ‘unhygienic’, thus fueling the 'prejudice' against these workers.
“In these times of vulnerability and safety of all, discrimination, prejudice, caste and communal are in the DNA of some of the privileged classes and companies. We see it from homes, to relief work, to factories, to schools, to even hotels. Our union survey conversations reveal that the impact of COVID-19 has been tremendous! 80% of domestic workers told not to come, effectively keeping them out of work, out of reach for two months! 70% not paid April salaries, 50% of those above 50 years dismissed arbitrarily!!! Many employers have cited hygiene, bringing the virus, etc (sic)," read a statement released by Geeta Menon, the head of Sree Jagruti Samiti.
Twitterati has also joined the battle against the classist message in the campaign. They have been calling out both Kent as well Hema Malini for supporting this problematic mindset. Here's what they have to say:
I hope they realise that it was " foreign return" madams and sirs who gave the virus to the maids .... and not the other way around! https://t.co/XTc381MfWD
Earlier today Kent RO released an official apology stating that "recent advertisement of Kent Atta and Bread Maker was unintentional, badly promoted, and wrong." Additionally, they have also promised a probe into how their advertising standard ended up getting compromised.
However, one still wonders what kind of apathy goes into an advertisement campaign that must have undergone several approval procedures and wasn't called out by a single person through the process. To push such a campaign right when you have been witnessing the migrant and domestic workers of the country fighting for their very existence? Distasteful and inhuman, to say the very least!