The woman who charged former TERI D-G R.K. Pachauri with sexual harassment speaks her mind after his ‘promotion’ as executive V-C. Excerpts from the interview with PS:
Are you surprised that many TERI employees, especially women, did not respond to your case with the same sense of outrage which one is seeing outside TERI?
Yes, very much. For reasons best known to those who work in TERI, they have not spoken up. But I have not let it affect me personally. Most painful is that when I had to approach these employees, requesting them to testify to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), most did not even respond. It was painful that even though one of them had complained of sexual harassment at a previous workplace, where action was taken on her complaint, she did not support me. My messages evoked no response. Some agreed to testify but later withdrew. I was coping with so much anxiety. It was disturbing to be in a position of requesting people to speak with the ICC. I am grateful to those who did not hesitate to testify. One person did testify but did not speak the truth for personal/professional gains or reasons. Many (former) colleagues have, since then, resigned too.
What was it like to work in TERI?
The director-general of TERI holds the most powerful position. Pachauri exercised a lot of control on others. People would simultaneously worship him and be scared of him.
What is your response to R.K. Pachauri’s appointment as executive V-C?
It made my flesh crawl. I felt disgusted and let down. I had heard he would be given a tailor-made role but when it happened, I couldn’t actually accept it. It was scary too, that eminent educated people, leaders in their fields, chose to behave in such an immoral way. Anyone who complains must at least be guaranteed a free and a fair probe—that’s a basic right. How can a probe be fair if the very man who stands accused is holding the most influential position? Most shocking is that the ICC’s report was ignored. How can someone be promoted pending an inquiry? The governing council members are regarded as the who’s who of corporate India—and none of them could take a stand. Their sermons on gender equality and other social issues fall flat and are at best hypocritical.
Were you harassed or intimidated?
Well, my colleagues were allegedly approached by members of the senior management of TERI. My colleague brought it to my attention, saying a few people had approached him, multiple times.
Is recovering and resuming work possible with all the attention on your case?
Certainly. I have work and am indeed picking up the threads. It feels reassuring to be working. I have a great, supportive and comfortable environment where I now work: no ridiculous questions were ever put to me. Professionalism demands that work be the focus and that is how it has been. I do spend my “free” time on the case as I have four litigations. Statistics show women can multitask and I have learned to compartmentalise. I am certain that I will pull through. I have immense support from family and friends, amazing lawyers. Really could not have asked for more—I’m truly grateful for all of this and will take this to its end.