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Outraged by the arrest and handcuffing of an Indian diplomat in New York in an alleged visa fraud case, New Delhi Friday lodged a strong protest as it summoned the US ambassador to India Nancy Powell and told her the “humiliation” was “absolutely unacceptable”.
Some angry MEA officials are even said to have urged the government to consider retaliatory measures over the incident which they said had humiliated and “traumatised” the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul-general in New York.
“There is no justification to what has happened to a young Indian woman diplomat, who had gone to drop her kids to school. We are shocked and appalled at the humiliation and have taken it up forcefully,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters while Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh summoned Powell to her South Block office.
“We have told them, in no uncertain terms, this is absolutely unacceptable,” Akbaruddin said.
Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed in public on visa fraud charges Thursday before being released on a $250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.
The 39-year-old diplomat — the mother of two young girls — was taken into custody on a New York street as she was dropping her daughter to school after the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Indian-born Preet Bharara, announced visa fraud charges against her.
Bharara alleged that Khobragade’s housekeeper had been given less than a “fair wage”.
“Foreign nationals brought to the US to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to US citizens,” he said.
“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. This type of fraud on the US and exploitation of an individual will not be tolerated.”
An 11-page criminal complaint unsealed in the Manhattan court alleged Khobragade made false statements about the salary and employment terms of her housekeeper from India.
Although the prevailing minimum US hourly wage in the area is $9.75, the housekeeper was paid only about $3.31 an hour, the complaint said. Sources said the housekeeper was paid about Rs 30,000 ($500) per month.
Diplomats and consular officers can get domestic workers on A-3 visas. They have to submit proof that the helper will receive a fair wage, sufficient to support themselves financially and comparable to that offered in the same