Washington: The Indian 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 said from New York, reacting to a forced-labour suit filed against him by Santosh Bhardwaj, 45, in a Manhattan federal court Monday.
The housekeeper has alleged that Dayal promised her $10 an hour, plus overtime, to cook and clean for him and his wife after he was appointed to his post in 2008, according to New York Post.
But after arriving in the US, Dayal 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.
"I filed the complaint because I want to be paid for all the labour I provided and for all the injustice I suffered - and I want my passport returned," Bhardwaj (45), the mother of four children, said.
"The Dayals did not treat me fairly," she said in a statement issued by the Legal Aid Society, which is representing her.
The Post citing her suit to say she is seeks unspecified damages and the return of her passport.
She said 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.
Rejecting Bhardwaj`s 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 eleven months from February 2009 to Jan 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 expect in my home," Dayal said.
"Thereafter, she absconded on 28th Jan, 2010, and it is surprising that she has filed this case one and a half years after leaving my employment."
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 added.
"She left my employment as she wanted to do moon-lighting by earning more money by working outside. She was refused this permission and decided to leave my employment.
"The matter was reported straightaway to the local authorities as well as to the ministry of external affairs. The charges levelled by her are totally false and baseless."
Dayal also rejected as an "insinuation" charges that he had asked the housekeeper "for a massage, which she interpreted as a sexual advance", saying he never asked for a massage.
"No question. I never asked for a massage," Dayal said, even though he had some pain in the leg for which he was under treatment. "It`s a mischievous insinuation."
The Post also cited a spokeswoman for the Legal Aid Society, which is representing Bhardwaj, as saying that Dayal isn`t protected by diplomatic immunity because consular officers are only covered for their "official acts".