Indian awarded £184,000 in UK’s first caste bias case

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Sep 23, 2015 23:55 IST
Illustration of a woman juggling many household jobs. (Siddhant Jumde)

A woman from Jharkhand who faced many restrictions and difficult conditions while working for an Indian-origin couple in Britain has been awarded £184,000 by an employment tribunal in a case that involved overtones of caste-based discrimination.

Supporters of Britain including caste-based discrimination in law hailed the judgment as a first of its kind, and called upon the David Cameron government to implement a law agreed in 2013 with immediate effect. Critics of the law hailed the compensation, but opposed its caste angle.

Jharkhand-origin Permila Tirkey, now 39, came to work as a nanny for Ajay and Pooja Chandhok in their house in Milton Keynes in 2008. She was then subjected to severe restrictions, paid much below Britain’s minimum wage, over worked and her passport withheld.

The shortfall in the amount she was paid and what she was entitled to under Britain’s employment laws amounted to £183,000 during the five years she worked for the Chandhoks from 2008 to 2013, the tribunal hearing the case at Cambridge ruled.

According to tribunal documents, Pooja Chandhok was born in India to Afghan Hindu parents, while Ajay Chandhok was born in Afghanistan; the former has been a UK citizen since 2005, while the latter has been a German citizen living in the UK since 1999.

The judgement said: “It is…unexplained and inexplicable that the respondents made no effort to recruit an appropriate person who was already living in the United Kingdom. We find that the reason why this was done was because the respondents wanted a servant in the Indian style.”

“They wanted someone who would be not merely of service but servile, who would not be aware of United Kingdom employment rights,” the judgement added.

However, Jasdev Singh Rai, general secretary of the British Sikh Consultative Forum — one of the groups opposing enshrining caste in British law — told HT: “The ruling is absolutely right and the compensation appropriate. However, the association with caste is not only a red herring but a deliberate attempt by some parties to muddy this case with their political agenda.”

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