Rakesh Manchanda for BeyondHeadlines
In Part 1&2 of this story which appeared recently in this column, I tried to demystify corruption in India by showing as to how unfair “dollar payments” is a common thread with Jail, Bail and FIR in two cases involving Mukesh Ambani-Devyani Khobragade.
My son who was preparing for his class 8th exam wanted me to explain ‘Equality & Justice’ wherein it was difficult to make the term simple and realistic. What adds to the collective shame is the compulsion/ the evil tradition to adopt compromising corrupt solutions. Just like our politicians, our investors and diplomats also live in a parallel bubble world with VIP privileges and birth rights. India has four sets of citizens -Devyani Khobragade vs. Sangeeta Richard – a babysitter and Mukesh Ambani vs. Common Man, the latter India representing 80% of Indians.
Aam Admi tolerates getting cheated as his pocket shrinks each day. Every person is looking for safe protection from unfair treatment. However, in above story one party is being blamed for taking a courageous stand to speak up while the other has been turned by media-politician nexus into a heroine/hero, whose honor gets tied up with India’s honor. The story of Ambani brothers displays crony capitalism. Here the weak Government is being commanded by getting its ministers transferred or removed at ease like a game of ‘musical chairs’. Kudos to the fast action of election Commission to stop the cruel hike of natural gas price getting double by 1st April. This is a tight slap on the face of conventional media and pseudo intellectuals who dismissed the FIR on Mukesh Ambani and PIL on gas price as a lie.
This brings a fresh opportunity to Aam Admi to choose their future leaders carefully as this price hike is stopped only for two months. What is missed by the readers is that if Modi Government comes to power as claimed by AAP, it shall further increase the profit of Reliance to 16 dollars per unit at the cost of hike in price of almost all essential items.
The Devyani VIP Saga
The story is no more new. It unfolds with Sangeeta Richard, the Indian national who was employed by Devyani Khobragade in America as a babysitter and housekeeper between November 2012 and June 2013.
The ‘diplomat’ Devyani did not pay legal wages, submitted false documents and then tried to blackmail the victim’s family by filing a case in the Delhi High Court. If Sangeeta Richard “stole” money and a phone in US as the Indian embassy press release says, then a police case ought to have been filed in New York and not in Delhi, a city where Ms. Khobragade has connections and influence.
In New Delhi, Deyani lobbied and misused her post and succeeded in filing an IPC Section 420 “cheating” complaint with the police on 2ndJuly 2013, then an FIR on 5th July saying Sangeeta is paid Rs.30,000/- This was done to anticipating a response to issue an injunction from Delhi High Court blocking Ms. Richard from initiating legal action against the diplomat on U.S. soil. Devyani also committed a moral blunder by paying Sangeeta less than Rs.25000+5000 overtime, what she promised to pay her verbally. This is precisely what officially the case is all about as ‘unconfirmed’ sources say babysitter Sangeeta was paid only Rs.20,000/- where the written contract as per US law is 4500 USD.
Devyani Khobragade was picked up in US from outside her daughter’s school for not paying Ms. Richard the legal minimum wage. She was humiliatingly handcuffed and strip-searched (women police) – a violation of the Vienna Convention, which lays down the guidelines for how ‘diplomats’ should be treated. Records later point out that she was a consulate worker and was not a diplomat.
System of Protecting Lies and More Lies:
While India has correctly objected to the treatment of its ‘diplomat’, it needs to address the fact that she broke the law of the host country she was posted. How much is the salary for ‘diplomat’ can be easily seen via Bank transactions of every Indian consulate and diplomat. This means US government knew in advance the pitfalls controlling the case.
Every Indian diplomat abroad continues to tell the same lie, because none of them can afford to pay the local minimum wage when their own pay, even with the foreign allowance, is barely more than that. The victim and her family are still hiding in fear of retaliation.
Many Indians are working overtime today to expose the Ambani brothers’ loot behind the discussed gas robbery challenge and Delhi electricity bills. VIP protection continues to damage the ‘pocket’ and the modest survival of a common man.
At the airport or via media awareness can easily spread. It is also the fault of host countries immigration rules as to why they fail in filtering overseas employees and keep their eyes closed till the whistle blower forcefully appears to spill the beans. Ambassadors and High Commissioners, even if honest, are found turning their head elsewhere as everyone knows the porous methodology the Indian investors and companies engage in.
Making Devyani-Sangeeta equation simple: We see both as wives, daughters and caring mothers. Both are concerned about their families. While the government-media nexus is seen expressing concern about the trauma of only one woman, there is only anger against the other. One is Aam aurut, while the other is a well-placed government official and a millionaire.
India has an ethical stand in the world as the country that won Independence from British colonialism through non-violence. Mahatma demonstrated to the world that the means are as important as the end. We can only do so if we stand up for the “weak” and not just for the mighty and the powerful.