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Millennium Post

Maids of contention and their unmaking

Have Indo-US ties really hit rock bottom after the fallouts of the Devyani Khobragade affair? The month-long madness over a maid in Manhattan has left many feathers ruffled, both in New Delhi and New York, even though the ultimate solution, mutual expulsion of the two diplomats, appears in hindsight to be a rather ramshackle and inadequate one. India, which has always adopted a cowardly stance on most issues, including the ultra delicate nuclear liability act, and has resorted to putting millions of lives as bait to attract the so-called US capital, pulled up its socks in the Khobragade standoff, risking its bilateral ties with the world’s most powerful democracy and the biggest economy. Although this managed to bring into sharp focus routine American hypocrisies and overreactions, the fact of the matter remains that domestic helps, who are towed with Indian diplomats, more or less always in an informal understanding between the two governments, will now attract undue attention. The visa status and legality of stay of at least 14 more maids, all employed as domestic helps by Indian diplomats in US, according to a recent report, are now under scanner. Much like Sangeeta Richard, these maids are the latest bone of contention between the two countries, with accusations of labour rights violation and mal-adherence to strict visa regimen likely to be drummed up in the foreseeable future.

While India couldn’t have reacted in any other way on the Khobragade issue, in order to keep its much-bruised dignity intact, it is perhaps advisable now to tread a slightly cautious line. Naturally, unless the larger and more pressing question of settling the exact legal status of the accompanying help is answered, this is bound to remain a thorn in the delicate throat of Indo-US ties, which, let’s face it, is just too important to be junked altogether at the altar of self-righteousness. It is time to work towards descaling the matter by both the governments and ensuring that the respective grievances are also effectively addressed.
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