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US healthcare costly, Devyani warned maid not to get sick

india Updated: Jan 11, 2014 00:56 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
Devyani Khobragade

India’s deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, had warned her maid not to “get sick” as treatment in the United States was expensive, the diplomat’s indictment report has alleged.

The maid, Sangeeta Richard, was made to work even when she was unwell, states the 20-page report prepared by US attorney Preet Bharara. The domestic worker’s employment contract entitled her to seven days of sick leave, but Khobragade allegedly denied that benefit to Richard, a serious violation of US laws.

“I never thought that things would get so bad here, that I would work so much that I did not have time to sleep or eat or have time to myself,” Sangeeta said Friday in her first public statement, released by anti-trafficking group Safe Horizon. The group is representing her in the case against Khobragade. She also asked other domestic workers not to let anyone exploit them.

Neither did the diplomat give her any paid “holidays” and “vacation days” as laid down in the contract.Before the maid was hired, a relative of Khobragade had told her that she would be required to work Monday through Friday from 7 am to12.30 pm and from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm, amounting to 7.5 hours per day. She was also assured that she would not have to work overtime.

However, the maid was made to work 15 to 18 hours daily, translating into 94 hours to 109 hours per week --- with limited breaks for meals or personal calls, the report alleges. The maid had sought to quit the job as she was unhappy with her “low salary, long hours and harsh work conditions,” but the diplomat, who was holding the maid’s passport, rejected her requests to end the employment.

The report also says the figure of $4,500 entered by Khobragade “for monthly income” did not match any actual income figure — neither the maid’s nor the diplomat’s.