“Do Indians have a domestic help problem? And why do we not seem to get it no matter how many times we trip up?” wrote Sandip Roy, an editor at the popular digital news site Firstpost.
An excerpt from an editorial in The Hindu, one of India’s leading English dailies, suggests it’s the difference in cultural views and tolerances that’s at the heart of the case:
It is well known that exploitative practices against domestic workers are rampant in India. With unskilled labour plentiful, and domestic labour comprising the lowest section in this category, there is no minimum or maximum age of employment, no fixed work hours, and certainly no minimum wage. Indians posted abroad are loathe to hire locals to do household work, especially in the West, as minimum wages are fixed, and translate into much more than they would pay back home; the terms and conditions of employment too are not malleable, with specified holiday and leave requirements. Uncaring about violating local laws, they end up taking “the help” with them on Indian wages, sometimes even showing her as a member of the family for visa purposes. Ms. Khobragade was only hewing close to type, going by the charges against her, even though as a senior government official, she should have known better. The Ministry of External Affairs should put an end to the practice of its officials taking domestic staff with them abroad.
In comparing the case to other news in which Indians were exploited, writer Deepanjana Pal wrote, “It establishes with painful clarity just how little the government cares for the less privileged and how naive people like me are when we bleat about equality and democracy.”
Pal even admitted she could never discuss this case with her own female housekeepers because of this unspoken understanding of injustice.
“Much like I accept investment bankers make much more money than I do for very little reason, my domestic help would probably accept the difference between local and foreign ‘rates.’” she wrote.