Associated Press reports: Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, has been accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her housekeeper. Indian officials said she was arrested and handcuffed as she dropped off
her daughter at school, and was kept in a cell with drug addicts before posting $250,000 bail. Prosecutors in New York say Devyani Khobragade claimed she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually paid her less than the U.S. minimum wage. In order for diplomats and consular officers to get a visa for their personal employees, known as an A-3 visa, they must show proof that the applicant will receive a fair wage, comparable to employment in the U.S.
Federal Prosecutors say Khobragade told the housekeeper she would be paid 30,000 rupees per month about $573, or $3.31 per hour. The maid claimed she worked more than 40 hours per week and was paid less than 30,000 rupees, Prosecutors said. If convicted, Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration. Khobragade is appealing on grounds of diplomatic immunity. However, technically speaking, Khobragade does not have full diplomatic immunity only consular immunity from U.S. courts and that too with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions only!
Now, there is an uproar in India’s political and diplomatic circles. The umbrage is not over the fact that a diplomat misbehaved and cheated her domestic help by withholding legitimate pay but over the diplomat’s arrest! How dare US behave so cruelly toward an ‘esteemed’ diplomat? The real issue of Devyani Khobragade behaving atrociously towards her maid, has been conveniently forgotten in this lop-sided brouhaha over the diplomat’s arrest! India, where class ramifications run deep, a maid suing her employer especially one employed by the Government of India, does not sit well with politicians; as a result the entire country’s reputation is at stake. Maintaining face at all costs, is an important aspect of being Indian.
PTI reported that Devyani Khobragade’s case has quickly become a major story in India, with politicians urging diplomatic retaliation. India acted quickly on this gross injustice against one of their own and threatened to downgrade privileges for American diplomatic staff in India and demand information about how much they paid their Indian household staff. Police also removed traffic barricades near the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, a demand by Indian government as a counter attack for Khobragade’s treatment. Generally speaking, treatment and pay for household staff, is largely seen as a family issue, off-limits to the law. To add fuel to fire, one does not arrest Diplomats, Politicians and the Rich! The fallout from the arrest is growing. Indian political leaders from both the ruling party and the opposition have refused to meet with the U.S. congressional delegation in New Delhi! Tit for tat plays our well in the region and among India, Pakistan and China, this game is well known!