Diplomat denies enslaving maid

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Old 22-Jun-2011
Diplomat denies enslaving maid

Washington/New York: India's consul-general in New York, Prabhu Dayal, has dismissed as "mischievous" and "complete nonsense" charges by a former housekeeper that she was treated like a slave while working for him and his family.

"These are mischievous and malicious lies. Complete nonsense," Dayal told IANS on phone from New York, reacting to a forced-labour suit filed against him by Santosh Bhardwaj, 45, in a Manhattan federal court on Monday.

The housekeeper has alleged that Dayal promised her $10 (Dh36) an hour, plus overtime, to cook and clean for him and his wife after he was appointed to his post in 2008, according to the New York Post.

Confiscated her passport

But after arriving in the US, Dayal allegedly confiscated her passport and paid her only $300 a month to sleep in a storage closet and toil 15-plus hours a day, seven days a week, she alleged in the lawsuit.

The Post said the housekeeper claimed she escaped last year by slipping out of the Indian consulate building on East 64th Street while Dayal was out at a meeting and his wife was in her room with the door closed.

The newspaper said the Indian consulate didn't return a call seeking comment.

Baseless allegations

Rejecting the charges, Dayal said: "The allegations made by Santosh Bhardwaj against me are totally baseless. She was in my employment in Delhi for one year, in Morocco for four years and in New York for 11 months from February 2009 to January 28, 2010.

"She wanted to work part-time outside to earn more money but I refused permission as she was on an official passport and her visa did not allow her to work anywhere except in my home," Dayal said.

"Thereafter, she absconded on January 28, 2010, and it is surprising that she has filed this case one and a half years after leaving my employment."

Storage closet

Referring to her charges that she had to live in a storage closet, Dayal said: "This is completely false as she had a well-furnished room with an attached bathroom.

"The room was equipped with air conditioner, TV, a telephone and had central heating. Besides she was paid her full emoluments as per my obligation, and she had saved a lot of money.

"Without these savings she would not have been able to meet her living costs in New York from January 2010 when she left me till June 2011," he said.

"The matter was reported straightaway to the local authorities as well as to the Ministry of External Affairs," he said.

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