The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday withdrew its proposal for higher “foreign allowances” for diplomats.

It had sought higher taxpayer-funded foreign allowances so that diplomats could pay their domestic assistants wages in accordance with the laws of the countries of their posting. The MEA sent this proposal to the Finance Ministry after allegations surfaced in the U.S. of diplomats violating minimum wage norms in payments to their domestic assistants, the latest being the Devyani Khobragade episode.

It appears some senior officers in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) have opposed the proposal on the ground that it could result in some domestic assistants getting paid sums even greater than the diplomats hiring them, highly placed officials in the Finance Ministry told The Hindu, explaining the possible reasons for the MEA to withdraw the file.

The officials said they did not expect the MEA to send the proposal again. The MEA had withdrawn the file “for further deliberations,” they said.

The Finance Ministry had asked the MEA for a copy of the Pay Leave and Compensatory Allowances (PLCA) Rules for the IFS to examine the demand. “The MEA did not provide a copy of the rules, despite a request in the aftermath of the Devyani Khobragade episode,” the officials said. “Though foreign allowances are funded by the taxpayer, the MEA has not put the details of these payments s in the public domain.”

The PLCA Rules allow diplomats to pay up to 30 per cent of their foreign allowances to domestic assistants, the officials said. Foreign allowances for all scales of the IFS officers are fixed every year by a joint indexation team of the Ministries of External Affairs and Finance.

The MEA is trying to find a way of making payments to diplomats’ domestic assistants in compliance with the minimum wage stipulations of the countries of their posting. Another alternative being discussed is that instead of diplomats, the government should hire domestic assistants on contract.

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