News / Asia

    Court Papers Show Abuse of Maid in US-India Row

    This Dec. 8, 2013 photo shows Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, during the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser at Long Island, New York.This Dec. 8, 2013 photo shows Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, during the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser at Long Island, New York.
    x
    This Dec. 8, 2013 photo shows Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, during the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser at Long Island, New York.
    This Dec. 8, 2013 photo shows Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, during the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser at Long Island, New York.
    Reuters
    An Indian diplomat accused of visa fraud and lying about underpaying her maid coached the nanny to mislead U.S. officials, confiscated her passport and made her work 100-hour, seven-day weeks, according to a U.S. grand jury indictment.
     
    Devyani Khobragade, who was India's deputy consul-general in New York, was effectively expelled from the United States on Thursday as part of a deal in which she was granted diplomatic immunity from the charges.
     
    U.S. court indictment papers, published on the website of the U.S. attorney's office of the Southern District of New York, painted a picture of a maid refused sick days and holidays while working for a salary of little over $1 an hour in New York, or about one-seventh the minimum wage.  
     
    Khobragade's arrest set off protests in India after disclosures that she was handcuffed and strip-searched. The dispute soured U.S.-India ties, leading to sanctions against American diplomats in New Delhi and the postponement of visits to India by senior U.S. officials.
     
    Khobragade denies all charges and has been backed by the Indian government. Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack said on Thursday she would leave with her head “held high.”
     
    “She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known,” he said in a statement.
     
    The indictment underscored the wildly divergent stories from both sides. The diplomat's relatives and government officials say the allegations are exaggerated and are being used by the maid, Sangeeta Richard, to get compensation or U.S. residency.
     
    Many Indian commentators said Richard had a relatively comfortable life, with full board and lodging, free cable TV and medical care. They say it is misleading to calculate weekly working hours for live-in staff.
     
    Uttam Khobragade, the diplomat's father, said Richard lived a luxurious life, that she went to the beauty parlor every alternate week, and purchased an iPhone.
     
    “Does even Nancy Powell's maid servant have such luxuries?” he said to Reuters, referring to the U.S. ambassador to India. “She was having a gala time there.”
     
    Two contracts
     
    The indictment said that Khobragade first made the maid sign a contract that stipulated she would be paid around $9.75 an hour. Khobragade told U.S. officials in the visa application that the maid would be paid $4,500 a month.
     
    But on the evening of flying from India to the United States, Richard was called to Khobragade's house in Delhi.
     
    She was told she needed to sign a second work contract, with a changed maximum salary, including overtime, of 30,000 Indian rupees ($480) a month, an illegally low amount under U.S. minimum-wage laws.
     
    Provisions about holidays and sick days were deleted from the contract. The indictment says that the actual hourly wage for the maid, given she was often working more than 100 hours a week, was a little over a $1 an hour.
     
    On one occasion, Khobragade told the maid not to get sick because it was too expensive, the papers say.
     
    On arrival in the United States, the diplomat took the maid's passport and never returned it, saying it would only be returned at the end of her three-year contract, according to the court papers.
     
    However, Khobragade in October filed a court case in India against Richard claiming she fled with a government passport.
     
    The case has shone a light on U.S. efforts to investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse of foreign employees of diplomats and consular workers after the strengthening in 2008 of the law that protects such employees brought to the United States.
     
    But some Indian commentators say they suspect many abuse allegations have been encouraged by the law and are trumped up charges by domestic workers.
     
    “The U.S. is a highly litigious country where suing people is a sort of favorite pastime,” said Prabhu Dayal, a former Indian consul general in New York, who in 2011 settled a case out of court after accusations he mistreated a domestic worker.
     
    Writing in the Indian newspaper Mail Today, he said the beefed-up law encouraged consulate staff like domestic helpers to complain of mistreatment in order to claim to be a trafficking victim, which in turn could lead to U.S. residency.
     
    Safe Horizon, an organization that helps victims of abuse, said Richard was likely to apply for a special “T-1” visa for trafficking victims. Such a visa would be valid for up to four years and allow her to work in the United States. It can also lead to lawful permanent residence.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Costco from: Wup Wup
    January 13, 2014 11:07 PM
    ha ha ha only person laughing - ha ha ha - 100 hrs - really ? what was she doing in a household where everyone went out including the kids? Making pickles and rolling papadams all day? As for what the court papers says - less said the better - it is so hard to fight - even when you say things jokingly - when someone is out to make a case, they recall innocuous comments and is written down in the case and you are shocked to see those things that characterise you as a demon - you cant deny because yes you said it but in what context what tone - no one is interested in knowing that - defintiely not the courts - have experienced this - By the way - will the visa officer in Delhi be also indicetd for vetting the form improperly when it said $4,500? really? an Indian Govt employee will pay that much - shouldn't I as a visa officer in Delhi know at least that much about the country in which I am posted? at airports and elsewhere people in US pounce on you for silly and little mistakes- what was the Visa officer doing? Will that person be indicted as well for ciminal negligence of his/her duties? there are so many issues at play - But then moral of the story is eveyone on this planet wants to improve their lot, Ms Richards found this route.

    by: indianzombie from: ny
    January 11, 2014 6:31 PM
    Before 1991 we were a happy go lucku nation. Then india globalized then came the US with my ass is bigger than u attitude trying to make our country one of its puppy like Japan and UK. I hope this thing takes a worst turn and we back to pur glorious days. Globalization has done nothing but given us high inflation and misery.

    by: Marina from: New York
    January 11, 2014 3:07 PM
    This is a misleading headline. It should say, "Court Papers Show Allegations of Abuse of Maid in US-India Row." Nothing has yet been proven.
    In Response

    by: Dee
    January 15, 2014 12:43 PM
    Well said.Noone ever speaks of the contempt of Indian courts shown by the US diplomat who "evacuated" the family from India.He should be the one charged for human trafficking.

    by: David Dempsy from: Maryland USA
    January 11, 2014 9:28 AM
    By Indian standards, The maid's job would be taken in a heart-beat by millions. By American standards it was slave labor in violation of the law. Indians, when working overseas, having two labor contracts and having passports taken is not uncommon. It is also not uncommon to not be paid at all when employees are supposed to get their pay-out at the end of the contract and be shipped home.
    It is hard to fight for labor "rights" in a country where many people are willing to do anything to keep from starving. Not to mention that India is very corrupt.

    by: Chatny from: India
    January 10, 2014 3:06 PM
    and the British are working hard to aggravate the situation... this "diplomatic" row is just what the British hopped would happen...

    by: Stephen Real
    January 10, 2014 12:54 PM
    The maid needs to have her voice heard in Indian court.

    Come with us.
    Let's fight for the poor.
    this is a fight worth having

    We need your help to defend the voiceless in all society.
    In Response

    by: vijay from: usa
    January 10, 2014 9:37 PM
    You have upper hand when USA is on your side. Previledged Indians class like devyani will learn lot of lessons from this single case.
    In Response

    by: James from: USA
    January 10, 2014 7:59 PM
    You know as well as everyone the maid would be railroaded in India and would be thrown in prison. Indian Government has no honor and little justice for the lower caste.

    by: asdf from: asdf
    January 10, 2014 12:33 PM
    Rich, Entitled girl from India. Tries to make a international incident because of her vain callous life style. She should get the death penalty with the rest of the scum that do things like this.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora