Doctor Couple Arrested in Delhi for Locking Up Teenage Maid

UNICEF estimates India is home to 35 million child laborers. (Photo: Youth Ki Awaaz)

UNICEF estimates India is home to 35 million child laborers. (Photo: Youth Ki Awaaz)

A couple has been arrested in the Indian capital of Delhi for locking up their 13-year-old domestic servant while away on holiday. The female maid was found last Thursday and told police the couple, both doctors, locked her up before leaving for Thailand, leaving her with no food. She was discovered after three days, when neighbors heard her cries for help from the balcony.

The couple, Sanjay and Suneeta Verma, was placed in police custody for two days. Their lawyer told the court the maid’s medical reports reveal she was not malnourished, and insists the Vermas provided her with a key.

But the maid refuted any claims that she accidentally locked herself in, and went on to allege that she had not been paid for three months. She also told India’s Child Welfare Committee that the couple and their 11-year-old daughter regularly beat her and pulled out her hair.

Suspicion over the couple’s guilt loomed large when they did not return from their vacation on March 30 as planned. The doctors, who hold thriving medical practices, reportedly went into hiding when news broke of the maid’s recovery.

The case has highlighted the plight of domestic workers in India, most of whom are employed illegally. According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 35 million child laborers in India–despite a government-imposed ban preventing children under 14 from working as domestic servants.

The girl is currently under the care of a government shelter, as she awaits the arrival of her mother from Jharkhand. With her case gaining widespread media attention, social welfare activists are confident the government will uphold the charges against the couple and try them accordingly.

But in a country often dictated by social standing and money, the odds of the Vermas facing severe consequences are slim, while the prevalence of underfed and underpaid domestic workers only continues to grow.

Sabrina Siddiqui is the editor-in-chief of Divanee.com.

@sabrinasiddiqui