A bulldozer removes a barricade in front of the US embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday. (AFP)
WHAT INDIA DID ON TUESDAY
Withdrew identity cards of all US diplomats serving in India. The cards establish their diplomatic status
Will withdraw automatic import of goods by US diplomats and missions. These imports were till now exempt from scrutiny and customs duties. (Question among Indian movers and shakers: Do we have to make do with Indian-made foreign liquor at the next party there?)
Asked the US embassy and missions in Calcutta, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad to submit details of salaries paid to all personal staff, Indian and foreign
Asked the US missions to submit details of employment and visas of all staff and teachers at American schools
Asked Delhi police to“review” need to provide barricades outside theUS embassy in New Delhias security
Decided to withdraw airport passes for all US diplomats. These passes allow diplomats access to parts of airports otherwise not accessible to citizens
● What is the charge against Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul-general at the Indian consulate in New York?
According to the criminal complaint filed by Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara, the Indian diplomat paid her Indian housekeeper far below the minimum wage decreed in New York
● Why is Bharara saying so?
Look at the following figures quoted in the complaint. (The dollar has been converted at Rs 52.34, the rate in 2012 that the US officials appear to have used.)
■ Visa application in 2012 said housekeeper Sangeeta Richard would be paid $4,500 (Rs 2.35 lakh) a month
■ The Indian diplomat later reached an agreement with the housekeeper to pay Rs 30,000 a month
■ Rs 30,000 is equivalent to $573.07 a month or, at 40 hours a week, $3.58 an hour
■ The minimum wage in New York is $7.25 (It will increase to $8 on December 31, 2013)
■ $3.58 (Rs 187), the amount allegedly paid per hour by the Indian diplomat, is less than half of the minimum wage of $7.25 (Rs 379)
■ The charges carry a combined punishment of 15 years in prison if found guilty
● Did Devyani fill the visa application?
Legally, it is immaterial who filled the form. Under US consular rules, the accuracy and authenticity of information furnished is the responsibility of the diplomat applying for a visa for a staff member. The application was Khobragade’s, seeking a visa for the staff member (the housekeeper), just as the application that Khobragade made for her own visa was actually that of the government of India
● Was Devyani actually paying the nanny only around $3 an hour?
Depends on how wages are defined. India claims the New York authorities have only looked at her basic salary — and that if all her other emoluments, including housing, food and social security allowances, are taken into account, her pay is above the minimum wages. But officials accept that this will be hard to prove and that establishing the nanny was paid $4,500 a month (which makes it over $28 an hour, far above the minimum wage of $7.25) is near impossible
● Do US labour laws hold for the Indian nanny’s work conditions?
Yes. Under the Vienna conventions, each country can decide what privileges to accord to personal staff of diplomats. The US does not exempt the employment of such staff from their labour laws
● Does Deyvani enjoy immunity from arrest?
India is reading the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that prohibits the arrest or detention of a diplomat like Devyani unless the head of the mission approves. The US is citing the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that grants immunity only for acts committed in the line of work
● Er... does India have minimum wages for a domestic help?
Yes and no. “The Delhi government has stipulated an amount of Rs 7,600 for illiterate unskilled workers like household hands. This is for working eight hours with Sunday off. However, I haven’t found anyone who gets this amount. It’s a joke to say that maids in India get minimum wages,” said activist Rishikant, who recently rescued a tortured Jharkhand teen from an affluent locality in the capital. In Calcutta, the minimum daily wage for unskilled sweepers and cleaners is Rs 231, which works out to Rs 6,930 a month. But unlike in the US, there is no prison term here. The court will fix a compensation to be paid to the employee.