Arrested Indian software engineers being treated like common criminals





Arrested Indian software engineers being treated like common criminals

Arrested Indian software engineers being treated like
common criminals

From Shyam Bhatia
DH News Service
WASHINGTON, Jan 26

It is a travesty of natural justice that 27 Indian
computer professionals are being treated as common criminals by the US
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) which has confiscated their driving
licences and told them they are under house arrest until brought before a judge.

In all civilized countries the underlying principle of
law is that all are innocent until proven guilty. But in the case of 27 Indian
citizens confined to their suburban Texas apartments, the INS has already
convicted them and taken away their most basic human rights, including the right
to social contact, freedom of movement and the right to purchase food for
survival.

DOUBLE STANDARDS: Worse, the hearsay evidence of racist
comments by agents of the INS suggests that in the US, the greatest champion of
worldwide human rights, there are double standards when it comes to ”lowly“
Indians who are worthy only of second class treatment at the hands of US
bureaucrats.

These are the sorts of attitudes associated with
discredited European colonial powers who justified their centuries of
exploitation as the white man`s burden to civilize the globe. More`s the pity
that such unlovely impulses have crept into the New World where anyone and
everyone has the right to dream of a better future. The offence the Texas 27 are
guilty of is that they allowed their employers, Frontier Consultants and Softech,
to redeploy them to jobs that weren’t specified in their B-1 work visas.
Frontier and Softech claim this happens all the time and is perfectly
legitimate. A US judge will rule on the issue in a few weeks` time.

RACIST COMMENTS: Whatever the judge’s decision, nothing
merits the racist comments of INS agents, or the handcuffing of decent,
god-fearing Indian citizens, including a couple of pregnant women, who were
simply doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Nor do they deserve to be
treated like naughty children confined to their homes and deprived of their
driving licenses by order of the INS.

But for the generosity of local Indians in San Antonio
who have taken on the responsibility of making sure enough food and water is
available, most of the Texas 27 would now be starving. The apartments to which
they have been confined follow the usual contours of American urban planning and
are miles away from local shops and other amenities.

Totally bewildered by what has happened to them, these
highly educated professionals face the prospect of further humiliation when they
are prosecuted. After treating them as common criminals, the INS is expected to
argue that they should be deported.

The guts of the INS argument is that they are guilty of
work permit violations because they were employed in jobs, such as revamping the
software needs of the Randolph Air Force base, which were not authorized by the
terms of their B-1 temporary work visas.

But the INS charges have been challenged by Frontier and
the other recruitment agency, Softech, who say they are entitled to subcontract
their employees to other projects.

”Usually, they come here and work on an inhouse
project, then they are farmed out and placed in different projects,“ says
Hyderabad born Mrs Geeta Dhondi of Frontier consultants.“ ”Thats how the IT
industry works.“

Her company brings over about 40 to 50 computer
professionals every year from India, but most of her recruiting is done within
the US and Canada.

Since the totally unexpected arrests, her company has
paidout —100,000 in bail money, lawyers fees and insurance costs. ”So far we
are managing to support everyone, but what will we do if the cases drag on for
two months,“ Mrs Dhondi asks?

Last night she told Deccan Herald that Frontier
Consultants had been in contact with Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu who
has promised his personal help and asked to talk to Frontier`s lawyers. In
Washington the case of the Texas 27 was raised with State Department officials
by Indian ambassador Naresh Chandra. The officials told him they were not aware
of what had happened but said they would investigate.

”I am from Warangal, near Hyderabad, that`s how I
contacted Chandrababu Naidu,“ Mrs Dhondi told Deccan Herald. ”He assured me of
his help and wants to talk to our attorneys and he`s assured me he wants tohelp
me.

”These people have to go to work, how long can we
support them? The company cannot support indefinitely; for the moment we are
doing all we can, but how long will this case go on for.

”So far we have paid 75,000 dollars for bail. Now the
company has to support them and is ready to support them, but next month car
rentals, apartment rentals will come in and they have to be paid.

”Right now we can support them but what happens after
two months. Insurance alone costs 10,000 dollars per month, attorney fees are a
minimum of 10,000 dollars, they could rise to at least 50,000 dollars per
month.“

Innocent until proven guilty: surely, some decent,
god-fearing Americans in distant Texas understand the injustice of what has
happened and are ready to stick out their necks to help 27 Indians incarcerated
in their apartments. Or is the New World taking up the bad old ways of the Old
World that the United States was created to escape from?

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