Focus on diplomat versus domestic worker case

Noting that the labour rights of her domestic worker Sangeeta Richard have been ignored, the National Platform for Domestic Workers on Monday demanded that the Indian Government immediately enact a law for the protection of all domestic workers including migrant workers within the country and abroad.

According to the State convenor of the National Platform for Domestic Workers, Anita Juneja, the Indian Government defended the diplomatic rights of India’s Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade but ignored the labour rights of her domestic worker Sangeeta Richard.

“In the absence of a national law that aggrieved workers like Sangeeta Richard are forced to seek justice in a foreign country. Amidst the brouhaha over the arrest of Ms. Khobragade, it has been forgotten that she stands accused of serious violations of the labour laws of her domestic worker and the human rights of her family. The Indian Government has revoked Sangeeta Richard’s official passport and a court in Delhi has issued a non-bailable warrant against her, making it difficult for her to return to India.”

Pointing out that the diplomat versus domestic worker case has been turned into an issue of national pride and dignity, Ms. Juneja said it is equally a labour issue. “Ms. Khobragade made her domestic worker sign a contract as per the United States 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 under the previous contract. The second contract was concealed from the U.S. authorities.”

Explaining the circumstances which compelled Sangeeta Richard’s family to ask the American Government for visas to go to the U.S. to testify in court, Ms. Juneja said it was evident from the petition that Sangeeta Richard wished to return to India and was not using the case to immigrate to U.S. “However, in July the Indian Government cancelled her passport. Further in September 2013, Ms. Khobragade secured an injunction from the Delhi High Court against the domestic worker restraining her from initiating legal proceedings in U.S. In November, she secured a non-bailable warrant against Sangeeta Richard from a metropolitan magistrate’s court.”

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