Tensions between the United States and India continue to escalate after U.S. officials arrested and strip searched Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general, on charges of visa fraud and making false statements.
Khobragade allegedly filed false paperwork for her female housekeeper, so that she could receive a work visa from the U.S. government. In the documents, Khobragade stated that she paid her housekeeper $9.75 an hour. In reality, the housekeeper earns just $3.31 an hour, which is significantly less than the federal minimum wage, according to prosecutors.
“The false statements and fraud alleged to have occurred here were designed to circumvent those protections so that a visa would issue for a domestic worker who was promised far less than a fair wage,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “This type of fraud on the United States and exploitation of an individual will not be tolerated.”
Indian officials have been in an uproar over her treatment by U.S. officials.”We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the U.S. authorities,” Indian external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. Adding that her treatment was “absolutely unacceptable.”U.S. officials defended their actions, claiming that standard procedures were followed. Marie Harf, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department attempted to explain the situation.
“This limited episode was somebody who was charged with a crime, is a separate and isolated incident,” Harf said. “We have conveyed at high levels to the government of India our expectations that India will continue to fulfill all of its obligations under the Vienna Convention.”
“We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India,” Harf added. “Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch stated that although it does not condone strip searches, the allegations of abuse of a domestic worker are far more serious.
“Despite wide coverage of the case in India, there has been little public outrage or shame that Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, who has championed women’s rights in other settings, allegedly paid her domestic worker a fraction of New York’s legal minimum wage,” Nisha Varia, a senior researcher in the group’s women’s rights division said.