Maid exploitation or high-handed US


It may have happened to most of us, if not in its entirety, then in bits. A family servant back home, an unfortunate relative or a multitude of cooks and chefs pleading to take them with us. They swear by almighty that that they will be for ever obliged.

It is tempting. We also want to be do gooders. What’s the harm, we think.

The tables turn on arrival, when they are lured of their prospects, of course, with a little nudge and prompt from the people they meet. They go missing, even black mail and the life becomes a hell.

On the other hand there are stories of genuine exploitation, people made to work long hours, mistreated, virtual prisoners in a foreign land.

The Indian Deputy Consul-General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, is feeling a bit of similar heat having been arrested, strip and cavity searched and held with drug addicts without due respect of her being a diplomat and an Indian representative.

The maid, Sangeeta Richard, has been absconding since June this year, having stayed with the family for a mere seven months and has been seeing an immigration lawyer. There are allegations that the problems started as the maid’s request to work elsewhere on her off days was denied by Dr Khobragade who cited her visa conditions. The Indian High Court has issued an injunction to restrain Sangeeta from filing proceedings against the diplomat outside India. The case becomes interesting as the prosecution is conducted by the Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, an Indian American.

While it may seem the case of an indulgent diplomat, the high-handedness of American law without due respect of protocol and United Nation charter is abhorrent. It simply needed a phone call to resolve matters. But to treat a lady, a medical doctor and a diplomat with utter disrespect and humiliation is downright abominable.

It is appropriate for India to take a stand: to withdraw the abundant privileges American diplomats enjoy in India and to initiate procedures to investigate if they also practice what they preach.

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