News East West
NEW DELHI: Even as the India-US stand-off over the arrest and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York for alleged visa fraud shows no signs of abating, the diplomat’s maid Sangeeta Richard has accused her of keeping her in “slave-like condition’’ during her employment.
Sangeeta’s husband Philip, who was secretly flown out of India by the US authorities along with his two children (daughter Jennifer, 20, and son Jatin, 18) just before Devyani was arrested last week, had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court in July, alleging maltreatment of his wife by Devyani.
Phillip argued in his petition that his wife was even forced to work on Saturdays and Sundays. “Even though the contract stipulated that Sunday would be an off-day she worked from 6 am to 11 pm, minus 2 hours for church even on Sunday. She worked from 6 am to 11 pm on Saturday as well,” the petition said.
When Sangeeta protested against her ill-treatment, Devyani’s father Uttam Khobragade (a retired IAS officer now living in Mumbai) called him and warned him of dire consequences, Phillip said.
“Uttam Khobragade called Sangeeta’s family several times and threatened them that they would have to face dire consequences if she complains and that he would ruin their future, get them abducted and frame false charges of drugs against them,’’ the petition said.
In his petition, Phillip further alleged that Devyani accused his wife of theft and warned her to teach a lesson when she returns to India.
“At the immigration office, Devyani falsely accused Sangeeta of theft, in front of the US Immigration Officer. Sangeeta asked what it was she had stolen. Devyani could not say and threatened her saying that she will come to know when she returns home,” the petition stated.
The petition also alleged that Devyani forcibly “took the signature of Sangeeta” on the second contract at the airport two hours before their departure. Under the second contract, Devyani agreed to pay her only Rs 30,000 per month, rather than $4,500 per month as per the first contract between the two.
Sangeeta has told the US authorities that Devyani had asked her not to mention the second contract during her visa interview.
The Richard family comes from Kerala. Phillip, who was employed as a driver with the embassy of Mozambique in New Delhi, was reportedly sacked from his job a year ago. He and his two grown-up children lived in a two-room apartment in south Delhi’s Sultanpur Colony. The apartment is now locked even as the family faces an FIR in Delhi.