Where India Erred – Focusing on Devyani Rather than on US Evacuation of Sangeeta Richards’ Family
Broadway in Manhattan is perhaps as much of a tourist attraction as the Statue of Liberty adding charm to New York. Though not a theatre fan, Broadway was one of the first places on my mind when I first visited New York in 1999, a time when the Twin Towers were still intact.
Staying at a terrible Manhattan hotel, since the New York marathon then prevented me from finding good accommodation, I set about exploring Times Square and Broadway by foot and almost lost my way before I managed to tread back to my apology of a room for a good night’s rest.
Spectacular Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, Chicago, Lion King, Matilda and Cirque du Soleil are just a few of the spectacular musicals and plays that have had crowds thronging Broadway.
Most of them also have a roaring run at Las Vegas which is where I got to see Cirque du Soleil in 2006, with former American President Bill Clinton sitting just a row ahead. He was in the first row and I just one row behind with my Cisco colleagues. I joined Cisco Systems in 2005 and the next two years the company’s annual Global Sales Meeting was held in Las Vegas where Celine Dion and other top singers enthral audiences regularly.
Now, some recent events demonstrate that American drama is not confined just to theatre. It is taking on political and legal hues!
Preet Bharara, the Entertainer, and American Follies: The U.S. and its Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara are providing entertainment to politics watchers by dabbling in theatre of the absurd and showcasing American follies. Well, by associating such jokers with it, let me not belittle that form of drama that is the embodiment of a creative, literary and theatrical pursuit – that of emphasising some silly, illogical aspects of life and human behaviour.
Preet Bharara and Barack Obama’s America are in fact enacting a farce through the ongoing visa saga involving Devyani Khobragade, former Indian deputy consul-general in New York.
Needless Drama: Episode 1 of the affair goes back to December 12, 2013 when Devyani was handcuffed, strip-searched and put alongside hardened criminals amid much needless drama – she was picked up from the street when she had gone to drop her children at school.
There was no need for such outrageous theatricality as if they wanted to book her they could have taken her into custody in a sane way – from her home or the Indian embassy, her place of work.
Theatricality and Humiliation of a Diplomat: Since then there has been a string of developments that will put Samuel Beckett to shame with the U.S. Attorney being at the centre of indictment, dismissal of indictment, re-indictment and one arrest warrant after another all over the same charge – that Devyani underpaid her maid Sangeeta Richard (US$3 per hour as against $9.50/hour) contrary to wage claims presented in the visa application.
The maid also claimed in her complaint that she was made to work more than 40 hours a week. It will be a mockery of our work culture if any employee merely goes by the rule book and refuses to put in a few hours of work more occasionally to meet business/work compulsions.
Moreover, the 40-hour work week that America touts is a joke and followed more in its breach than in practice.
My experience with American companies is such that I have spent 80 hours a week for most of my career with them. Moreover, Sangeeta was employed at the working couple’s home which included just their two little children. A realistic assessment will show she could not have been overworked.
Significantly, Sangeeta scooted from Devyani’s home within six months after the diplomat brought her to the U.S.
Trivial Issue and Ferocious Reaction: Is the American judiciary so naive as to enable Preet Bharara, behaving more like a crackpot than an attorney, to pursue a trivial issue with a ferocity that smacks of personal vendetta against someone from a country of his origin.
In the process, he goes about attacking both the Indian culture and judiciary even as the Barack Obama administration apparently watches the drama in mute glee, even expressing surprise at the dismissal by an American court of the indictment of Devyani.
Scandalous Evacuation: Worse, Washington even surreptitiously evacuated the husband and two children of Sangeeta Richard from India to the U.S. with help from an anti-India American diplomat in New Delhi.
In other words, the U.S. embassy connived with a maid and her family to embarrass India. And we still call the U.S. a friend!!
Still, The Hindu, in its editorial on March 15 prematurely thought that the dismissal of the visa fraud charges was an opportunity for India to mend ties with the U.S. Nonsense, with a friend like the U.S., India needs no enemies.
Sangeeta Richard is a maid with roots in Kerala though to Devyani and India she has proved to be a maid from hell!
Paid More Than a Software Engineer: The domestic help is a beneficiary of India’s generosity. Devyani is reported to have deposited Rs 30,000 every month in the account of her husband in India as part of Sangeeta’s salary. This by itself is handsome salary in India – not many software engineers earn this much there.
Plus, her food and accommodation was fully taken care of and on top of it all, it is claimed she was paid US$3/per hour – all of it added will be more than the minimum wage requirement of the U.S.
Importantly, though Sangeeta was a maid at Devyani’s household, she was for all practical reasons an employee of the Indian embassy – having been flown there on a special passport which entitles her to live in the U.S. only as long as she is an employee of the diplomat.
Retaliatory Actions: India has been taking strong retaliatory actions in response to the American humiliation of Devyani. But this is where India erred – instead of focusing on Devyani the country should have strongly protested the clandestine evacuation of the Sangeeta Richards family in India.
The U.S. had no business to meddle with the Indian system. As the world’s largest democracy, India offers the freedom of expression to all its nationals who have the right to deal with any excesses against them. For a fellow democratic country (the U.S.) to evacuate some of India’s nationals behind its back can be rightly seen as a serious infringement, even an attack on its sovereignty!
It is still not too late. India must step in and ask for the extradition of Sangeeta and her family who are in the U.S. through illegal means!
My other posts on the Devyani issue…
13 January 2014 – American aberrations and how India lost the plot
29 December 2013 – Will Uncle Sam clarify how the trafficking visas apply in the Devyani case
28 Dec. 2013, Sangeeta, a Christian from Kerala who got help from a Pakistani in the U.S. to tarnish India’s image
24 Dec. 2013 – Uncle Sam is enamoured of Sangeeta and India of Devyani
G Joslin Vethakumar