Monday, January 13, 2014
This "one world" thing many are hoping for is still a long way off
Have you been keeping up with the controversy surrounding the Indian consular official who was strip searched and arrested for visa fraud and abusing her domestic help? It seems that to get her servant a visa into the US, Devyani Khobragade told officials here that she would be paying a certain wage. As things turned out, the maid went to authorities in NY and alleged that she was forced to work 94-109 hours per week, yet was only paid $573 a month.
It seems consular officials do NOT have full diplomatic immunity like accredited embassy staff have, leaving Ms. Khobragade open to arrest. (I have no idea what the strip search was about.)
To end the diplomatic stand-off she was given full diplomatic accreditation by India and it was accepted by the US, and she was put on a plane and sent home. A US diplomat of similar rank will also be sent home from India, a sort of face-saving tit-for-tat.
Here's the part of the story that I find the most disgusting: The newspapers report that "...while Americans reflexively came to the defense of the maid who the authorities said was subject to abuse, Indians reflexively sympathized with the diplomat."
Part of that support is probably just due to national pride, but back in India many middle and upper class families also have servants who work equally long hours, yet make even less (comparatively) than the $573 Ms. Khobragade paid. To them this is apparently just business as usual. "If you got 'em, abuse 'em."
This is one reason why, to me, I don't care how many brilliant IT professionals India produces, or how many top-tier engineers or semi-English-speaking customer service agents, India will always be a crummy third-world nation. Their currency is in trouble because India has a horribly corrupt government, tax cheating is rampant, and nothing meaningful will ever change there because that's the way they like it.
I've had business dealings with extremely intelligent, highly affluent Indians here and I can attest that it was an unpleasant experience. I don't care how honorably you deal with them, they are always, ALWAYS looking for a way to screw you. It's simply their culture (I'm told) that makes them this way.
You can agree on a price, put it in writing, etc, yet before they eventually make final payment they'll want to renegotiate all over again. I was warned over and over by others that I would be sorry I dealt with them, that they had tried it and failed miserably, but I somehow thought my experience would be different. I was wrong.
In a non-business environment, I must admit they can be very interesting, charming, gracious hosts. I have friends who have vacationed in India, and even spent many of their formative years growing up there, and they probably have an entirely different view of the country and its people.
But since there was money involved, and based on my personal experience, the behavior of Ms. Khobragade and the reaction of her countrymen is not at all surprising to me. I think this "one world" thing many are hoping for is still a long way off.