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India: NDWM appeals India government silence on abuse of Khobragade's domestic worker

India: NDWM appeals India government silence on abuse of Khobragade's domestic worker

by IDWFED published Dec 20, 2013 12:00 AM
National Domestic Workers Movement has initiated series of actions to condemn the act of Indian government on the case of Khobagrade and demonstrate solidarity with the domestic worker. NDWM represented a protest meeting in Delhi. Some States have launched signature campaign. Here is an appeal note sent to the President, PM, UPA Chairpersson, Ministry of labour, Overseas, External Affair, Rahul  Gandhi and National Women’s commission and the media.



During the last few days, the Press and media have reported the outrage expressed by the Indian Government at the arrest and the alleged humiliating treatment meted out to the Assistant Consul General, Ms. Devyani Khobragade in USA. The hue and cry has focused on the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by Ms Khobragade and the fact that proper diplomatic processes were not followed. While we agree that the treatment was wrong, we are dismayed that in this entire episode, the reason for the arrest has been downplayed and even rationalized as something that is not at all to be considered as wrongdoing on the part of Ms Khobragade and is normal practice followed by all diplomatic staff.

 It is common knowledge that the arrest was carried out following a complaint by Ms Sangeetha Richards, who was employed as a live-in housekeeper and babysitter by Ms Khobragade.  In her complaint Ms Richards has alleged that she was made to sign the visa form submitted to the US embassy, which clearly stated that she would be entitled to the minimum wage for domestic help in the US and that her weekly hours would not exceed 40 hrs per week, besides enjoying a weekly off, sick leave and paid leave and also made to state the same in the personal interview at the Embassy. On the basis of this signed document and her personal statement, she was granted a visa to immigrate to USA. However she was later made to sign another contract that limited her salary to Rs. 25,000 and an additional Rs 5,000 as overtime and also doing away with the clauses on weekly hour limits, and leave clauses. These terms were way below the minimum wage and other working conditions of domestic workers in USA. As per international norms, all Governments are duty bound to prevent exploitation of migrant workers.

Far from condemning this falsification of employment terms, the Government has been silent on this issue, while the diplomat, her family and her diplomatic fraternity has stated that paying the minimum wage as per US laws and abiding by the other working conditions is not at all possible as they cannot afford the same. In other words, they all falsify data to fraudulently obtain visas for domestic help. Moreover the Government is contemplating the protection of Ms Khobragade by granting her immunity and nullifying the pursuit of justice by the wronged party. The domestic worker in question is also sought to be painted as a criminal with charges of robbery, which is the normal practice followed to vilify domestic workers who ask for their rights to be honoured.

It is extremely disheartening to note that while the Indian Government has voiced loud protest at the arrest of Ms Khobragade, it has glossed over the violation of rights and false attestation encouraged by her and thereby failed to protect the vulnerable domestic worker.

On behalf of the National Domestic Workers’ Movement, we seek to lodge a strong protest at this miscarriage of justice for a vulnerable worker, who has not only been denied just wages and working conditions, but also the avenues to legally redress her denial of rights. It may be pertinent to note that while India supported ILO Convention 189, the Government by this latest action has shown the international community that it is not serious about championing the rights of vulnerable workers and instead chooses to side with the privileged class.

We appeal to the Government of India to protect the rights of domestic workers by ratifying ILO C-189 and enacting a comprehensive legislation.

National Executive Coordination Team- NDWM


A 104, St. Mary’s Apts., Nesbit Rd., Mazagaon, Mumbai 400 010, India
Tel: 91-22-2378 0903, 2370 2498; Fax: 237 1131
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Source: NDWM

Story Type: News

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