Devyani Khobragade: A Life In Privilege, Corruption And Feudalism
By A Contrarian World
Devyani Khobragade is a poster child foreverything that is wrong with India’s quotabased reservation system, a feudal and corruptbureaucracy and a society that is atlarge still mired in a feudal outlook. I ambeyond myself for any iota of sympathy forDevyani or the purported outrage to hermodesty. Devyani met her match in PreetBharara. If Bharara did not exist, Devyani,in Bollywood film style, would havestamped into the ground the maid and herfamily. This is not empty conjecture. It iswhat Devyani set out to do.
Devyani Khobragade is a poster child foreverything that is wrong with India’squota based reservation system, a feudaland corrupt bureaucracy and a societythat is at large still mired in a feudal outlook.The Khobragade mess is a teachablemoment for all, including the US. It istime the US took a hard look at whatpasses for its ‘arrest procedures’. Modernimaging equipment provides enoughclues without resorting to a humiliatingstrip search or an even more denigratingcavity search (the latter was not done toDevyani). Let alone Devyani, anybodywho is found innocent later in trial,would have lived through an emotionallyscarring experience. This does notbehoove a great country.Those outside the US need to learn that,for every incident they google and dredgeup to show leniency by US law, there areten more that show the impartial natureof US law. Sitting President Bill Clintonhad to answer highly invasive questionsregarding ‘peculiarities’ concerning hisprivate parts during the Paula Jones trial.Senators, rock stars, governors, congressmen,film stars have all felt the sharp endof law in US. This is true of mostWestern countries. Bestselling author andMP Jeffrey Archer underwent imprisonmentin UK. More often than not thecommon Western citizen loves to see justicebeing delivered to the high andmighty. Many had pointed to the incidentin Kenya when a US diplomat caused acar accident killing a man and was laterevacuated with no punishment. Checkthe comments by Americans under thosearticles. Almost everyone had commentedthat this was unfair and the manshould stand trial.US has lot of idiosyncrasies in implementingthe law. US attorneys and judgeshave lot of latitude. There is constantdiscussion in US over frivolous lawsuits,extortion, harassment by overzealousprosecutors, extremely punitive punishmentsover trivial offenses and of courserace as a factor. No country is free of anyblemish. The US has its warts in the justicesystem. An overzealous attorneyaccused a group of Duke university studentsof having raped a black stripper.The entire case fell apart later. And, yesthe same happened to the French diplomattoo. All that said the US justice system,especially compared to India, deliversfor most. Conservative commentatorGeorge Will wrote a blistering column onhow prosecutors coerce drug offendersto plead guilty (see references). Alsowhen a US attorney general decides toprosecute a case not even the Presidentcan stop him/her.Lot of Indians reacted with disgustagainst Khobragade but demurred aboutthe strip search. What pained me mostwas how many reacted indignantly withquestions like “is the US holy?”, “is themaid a CIA agent?” and the worst being”the maid was given lodging and food.Does she need American wages abovethat?”Who is Khobragade? Daughter of anIAS officer she grew up in the lap of luxuryand, as her father himself stated,never faced any discrimination onaccount of her being Dalit. To be bluntshe only reaped the benefits of being aDalit just like K. R. Narayanan’s daughterdid. India’s perverted reservation system(not to be confused with the lesseroppressive American style affirmativeaction) considers Khobragade as eligiblefor education and job opportunities onaccount of her caste.Reports say she owns 11 propertiesincluding a flat in the scam taintedAadarsh flats. Asked why she did notdeclare prior government allotted homeher father indignantly replied that it wasnot their duty to do so.It is disgusting to see her fellow bureaucratsrush to her defense with op-eds inIndian and international papers. Onebureaucrat said that it is a fact that that allconsular officials lied in their visa papersabout salaries to the domestic help andhe proceeded to ask with anger “byapproving such visa is not the US complicit”.Another diplomat wrote that nowevery domestic help will feel emboldenedto complain to US authorities just to geta green card and pursue ‘dollar dreams’.Yet another diplomat, Prabhu Dayal,who was formerly accused of ill treatinghis maid in the same consulate took to anoped to rehash his case and cast aspersionson the maid.I was extremely pained to see questionsasking why does a maid need $9 justbecause she is working in NYC since herlodging and meals were taken care of.Why does Khobragade or any Indiandiplomat need US salaries? After all, theytoo live in the same consulate. Thisfeigned outrage in India against the treatmentmeted to Devyani is nothing butthe preening middle class asking “howdare a maid take one of our own to courtand have her arrested”. This is nothing todo with protecting India’s honor. Ratherit is bourgeoise India reacting with feudalimpulses against a maid. There have beenother instances when Indians have beenarrested, sometimes wrongly too, and nota single squeak was heard from India.Many seem to ignore that Devyani usedevery lever of power to crush the maid.As any middle class employer of Indiawould do Devyani too registered a caseof theft against the maid, in India, not inNYC where the purported theft tookplace. An Indian court gagged the maidfrom pursuing a legal option in US wherethe grievance, underpayment, was takingplace.Above all, the maid’s ‘official passport’,not Indian passport, was cancelled and anon-bailable arrest warrant issued againsther. Non-bailable warrant. For what?And a case was registered against themaid’s husband too? For what. I ambeyond myself for any iota of sympathyfor Devyani or the purported outrage toher modesty. Devyani met her match inPreet Bharara. If Bharara did not exist,Devyani, in Bollywood film style, wouldhave stamped into the ground the maidand her family. This is not empty conjecture.It is what Devyani set out to do. A pompous Yale graduate, liberal andleftist, Suchitra Vijayan penned a columnfor Rediff bemoaning that Devyani’sgreat work on behalf of the downtroddenis now tarnished. Suchitra says thatDevyani, ‘a doctor, Dalit and a woman ina male dominated career’ will not do just’lip service’ but does ‘things that areimportant’. Yet this Ivy League graduatecould not point to a single original idea orproject of Devyani beyond empty, inane,platitudes like ‘paying forward’ and ‘creatingopportunities’.That India is ruled by the bureaucrats isevident in this mess. The bureaucracy hasclosed ranks and is shamelessly trying toprotect one of their own. They are evenbrazen about the fact that they are entitledto ‘domestic help’ though clearly theycannot afford one in a country wheremost people, including citizens, do notneed a ‘domestic help’. The suggestedremedies by all these bureaucrats includeevery idea under the sun except payingappropriately or better still doing awaywith this colonial era entitlement.We can trust these officials to come upwith ideas that adhere to the law but arevoid of any scruples or morals. An ideafloated suggests that the Indian government,not the official, sign the contractswith the maids thereby presenting aconundrum to any overzealous US attorneyover arresting a country or a nonentitylike the government. India’s GDP is $2Trillion and Indians love to boast of theirpossible status of overtaking GDP andyet they want to pay a maid $3 per hour.Shame.The barrage of op-eds and manufacturedoutrage on behalf of the perpetrator onlyshows that the voiceless continue to bevoiceless in India. How many Indianpapers and TV channels interviewedthose who are being sent abroad as ‘domestichelp’? The foreign minister askswith barely controlled rage that the worstthat Devyani can be accused of is underpayingand if so does that is it a big deal.Khurshid was not seen with so muchanger when Muslims were butchered inMuzarfarpur. And yes, in some parts ofthe world, not paying an employee properlyis considered criminal.I’ve been asked if my interest and angeron this issue is because it gives me yetanother chance to scold India. Absolutelyno. When I first heard the news I ignoredit as yet another Indian trying to actIndian in USA. But then it erupted likeVesuvius. Many, many times I’ve seenindigent Indian employees in restaurantsshyly say “sir please give the tips as cash.If you put it on card it does not come tous”. Indians are loathe to tip after eatingfor $100 so I’ve seen waiters ask “sirplease don’t forget a tip”. At some placeswaiters cheerlessly say “we don’t get anypart of the tip”. I’ve been through theH1B grinding mill. I know personallyhow Indian employers cheat. Paying anemployee on time, paying fairly, treatingan employee with respect etc are completelyalien to most, not all, Indians.One day a plumber came to my home todo some repair work. He walked aroundthe home, sat comfortably on the sofa,complimented my daughter and talked tome as an equal human being. I thoughtwould an Indian plumber do the same inIndia? In India it is common for a smallchild to call an aged domestic help disrespectfullyby name and in singular.Children are employed to babysit children.Many Indians hated the movie SlumdogMillionaire. Time magazine elicited aresponse from a middle class car drivinggirl and a rickshaw driver. The girl wasirritated about the movie saying “this iswhat I see everyday should I see it in thetheater too”. The rickshaw man said “atlast a movie that speaks of people likeus”. Indians were less livid about the factthat children are maimed and forced intobeggary than about a cinematic exaggerationof a child jumping into a pit of excreta.It is the middle class that is fueling therise of Narendra Modi. Everyone breathlesslyspeaks of how factories are openedin Gujarat, how roads are laid pronto,how permits can be got easily but I’ve notheard a single Modi supporter speak ofwhy Gujarat’s primary education lags orwhy no big universities or research centersor primary health centers or state ofthe art hospitals were opened. Those donot matter to the middle class who haveconvents and nursing homes to go to.Supporters of reservation system wouldhave been livid at my calling Devyani asposter child for everything that’s wrongwith the system. Consider this. Themaid’s child and Devyani’s child are entitledto the same quota. Guess who has ahigher chances of enjoying the fruits ofthe quota? Convent education, US schoolgoing Devyani child or a maid’s child?Reservation system undoubtedly helped afew generations but it has become a behemothtoday that is hogged by the aptlylabeled ‘creamy layer’.Today’s Hindu carries an article abouthow schools meant for Adi-Dravida childrenare dilapidated, to put it mildly, lackteachers, lack classrooms and function insomething that resembles a buildingwhere even dogs would think twicebefore resting on a hot day. Politicians usereservation system as a soft option to lurevote banks while ignoring the more vitalconcrete steps. There are many lessons tobe learnt for all. India and Indians needthe most learning to do. I hope they sparea moment to learn.Courtesy Blogger – A Contrarian World