‘Forced to work in slavery-like conditions,’ says lawsuit.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Just three months after the Indian Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, caused an international furor with her arrest over allegations of underpaying a domestic worker and fudging visa documentation to bring her over, a Bangladeshi consular officer in New York is facing similar allegations in a lawsuit filed by a former worker.
Mashud Parves Rana is suing the Consul General of Bangladesh, Monirul Islam, and his wife, Fahima Tahsina Prova, for subjecting him to unfair working conditions and lying about the compensation he would be paid, seeking unspecified monetary damages in return.
According to the lawsuit, Islam and his wife told Rana that he would be paid $3,000 a month for his work at their two residences in Manhattan. However, Rana was forced to work 17 hours per day, seven days a week, for over 18 months, and was given very little pay for doing so. Rana was never permitted to go anywhere other than the two residences, and whenever he asked to go anywhere else, he was threatened with beatings and even the possibility of death.
The conditions Rana was kept in were akin to “forced labor in slavery-like conditions.” The work he was doing included cooking the family’s food daily from scratch, washing all their clothes by hand, and providing care for the couple’s 11 year-old son. He also frequently prepared the meals for events held at the Bangladeshi Consulate, located on East 43rd Street.
Rana would work from early in the morning until 11:00 PM; during occasions when the couple would be out late, Rana was forced to stay awake until they returned, let them in, make them a meal, and go to bed after they did, around 3:00 AM. Islam and Prova also kept Rana’s passport and visa paperwork, so that Rana had no access to them.
According to Bangladeshi news source bdnews24, Rana just got up and left one day, fed up with the abuse thrown at him. Islam was assigned to be Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Morocco, and told Rana that he would have to accompany him to that country, or else be sent back to Bangladesh. This conversation allegedly took place in early March, and apparently led Rana to finally call it quits.
Rana is represented by attorney Dana Sussman. He enlisted the services of the lawyer at an undisclosed time, and filed the suit last week. Consul General Islam has denied the charges, saying that the lawsuit is being used as an attempt by Rana to gain permanent residency in the US.