Domestic Worker vs. Diplomat – A Labour Rights Issue

RichardsNEW DELHI, (Press Release) — The National Platform for Domestic Workers is alarmed that the Indian government has vociferously defended the diplomatic rights of India’s Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade but ignored the labour rights of her domestic worker Sangeeta Richards.

In the brouhaha about the arrest of Khobragade it has been forgotten that she stands accused of serious violations of the labour rights of her domestic worker and the human rights of her family. The Indian Government has revoked Sangeeta Richards’ official passport and a court in Delhi has issued a non-bailable warrant against her, making it difficult for her to return to India.

The diplomat vs. domestic worker case has been turned into an issue of national pride and dignity whereas it is equally a labour issue. Khobragade made Richards sign a contract as per US laws and visa requirements but on the day of departure made her sign a second contract offering a far lower wage and signing away the rights agreed to under the previous contract. This second contract was concealed from the US authorities.

DevyaniSome seven months later, when Richards left her employment and approached a lawyer, Khobragade’s husband went to a New York police station and accused Richards of theft. But for reasons unknown he did not press charges. Negotiations were later held between the two parties but were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, in India Khobragade and her influential father IAS officer Uttam Khobragade reportedly pressured Richards’ family through the Delhi police. Richards’ husband and son were reportedly called to the police station six times to pressure her into withdrawing her complaint. The family contacted the Human Rights Law Network in Delhi which filed a petition in the Delhi High Court in July 2012 on behalf of Phillip Richards which asked for repatriation of Sangeeta Richards, an independent inquiry into the case and disciplinary action against Khobragade and her father. The petition also asked the Ministry of External Affairs to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for employees of establishments of the Government outside India.

It is evident from the petition that Sangeeta Richards wished to return to India and was not using the case to immigrate to the US. However, in July the Indian Government cancelled her passport. Further, in September, 2013 Khobragade secured an injunction from Delhi High Court against Richards, restraining her from initiating legal proceedings in USA. In November she also secured a non-bailable warrant against Richards from a metropolitan magistrate’s court.

It is in these circumstances that Richards’ family asked the US Government for visas to go to the USA so that they could testify in court and be protected under the witness protection programme.

It is important to remember that Devyani Khobragade has a dubious record of flouting rules and laws in India and misusing her own and her family’s political clout to secure undue favours such as a flat in the scam-tainted Adarsh society in Mumbai. Further, the Supreme Court has ruled that Khobragade had the rules bent to get unfair advantage over other Foreign Service officers, leading to the wrongful dismissal of her colleague Mahaveer Singhvi.

The National Platform for Domestic Workers demands that the Indian government immediately enact a law for the protection of all domestic workers, including migrant workers within India and abroad. It is in the absence of a national law that aggrieved workers like Sangeeta Richards are forced to seek justice in a foreign country.

By National Convenors
Varghese Theckanath s.g.
Nalini Nayak
Geetha Ramakrishnan
Delhi Gharelu Kamgar Sangathan,
Lissy Joseph,,
Sujata Madhok,,
Subhash Bhatnagar



Filed under Devyani Khobragade, Sangeeta Richards

6 responses to “Domestic Worker vs. Diplomat – A Labour Rights Issue

  1. Robin Gomes

    I see a better perspective of Sangeeta -Khobragade warfare. While following the media news it was sounding to me hazy & fishy. After reading this I get the point clear that : Ek haat se Talia nahi bajti, >>> To commit a fault there exist two parties. Both are possibly responsible for the act.

  2. Dr Roy Chowdhury

    Just click on the link below from the Ministry of External Affairs website — 11 pieces of property in her own name: flats, plots, agricultural land, everything — in Maharashtra, Greater Noida (earlier Gurgaon) and Kerala!
    As a friend emailed me: “She is a bloody wealthy woman! Cannot pay her maid!” Such are the people the corrupt Govt of India loves to support!

    And as you know her father is one of the beneficiaries of the 22-storey Adarsh Society scam on the Colaba military land! God helps us!

  3. C.M. Paul

    Filter out cacophony of America’s lack of diplomatic tact, and you will hear the miserable story of Indian domestic helps. While our media and politicians wage a war of righteousness, one would do well to remember that the charges against our diplomat are based on the treatment of another Indian lady – a domestic maid.

  4. Whenever the US Govt.does something drastic like spatting down, there should be some reason… If George Fernandez, India’s Defense Minister was spatted down in USA, it was because this could-have-been priest had planted bomb on the Railway Track during the Railway strike and the news had reached Washington before it reached New Delhi that he was in the terrorrists’ list..

    After 9/11/2001, it was the policy of the US govt. to spat down any one with a Muslim name boarding a US aircraft and our dear ex-President APJ ABDUL Kalam had to pay the same price on a US plane in Delhi itself..

    THEY WILL APOLOGISE AND EVEN ‘TAKE THE EMPLOYEE TASK’ for a week or so but the instructions to the employees are very clear!!

    Similarly, the CM of TN has not apologised or compensated the Sankaracharya of Kanchi for arresting and imprisoning him though the court has let him free…

  5. Dr Roy Chowdhury

    Hats off also to editors like Shekhar Ghosh and T.N. Ninan who refused to tag along with the government on the patriotic card being pushed in the Devyani Khobragade vs Sangeeta Richards case and courageously asked the nation to think of the other victim (Sangeeta) as an Indian woman who had also been wronged;

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