• Wrong signals: Why is #RKPachauri back at TERI?

    That RK Pachauri’s return is a shocker is not a doubt. Why must a person accused of sexual harassment be back at a prestigious institution? He has not just got back to The Energy and Research Institute (TERI), but has been promoted from his previous position. A position nicely carved out by TERI to keep him on board.

    Pachauri had left TERI last year in February when his junior, a Research Analyst had accused him of sexual harassment at the workplace. The case is still pending at the Delhi High Court, but an internal committee had been called which gave verdict that he was found guilty of serious misconduct in May. Another case has emerged with a staffer alleging misconduct in 2003.

    Pachauri had left TERI last year in February when his junior, a Research Analyst had accused him of sexual harassment at the workplace. 

    But what’s surprising is that TERI has put all its effort in getting Pachauri back in the institution. And he is back as the Vice-Chairman of the institute having operational powers. Pachauri seems to have way too many supporters in the organisation.

    The research analyst went through mental trauma and constant embarrassment of people asking her to settle outside court and so on. Is this a reflection of how we want to deal with issues in India? Hearing about Pachauri’s ‘renewed achievement’, she wrote an open letter to express her disgust. She said “Shamelessness abounds! The news of promotion of a man who stands booked on charges of sexual harassment at a workplace, stalking and criminal intimidation by the country’s who’s who makes my flesh crawl.”

    What makes the case complex is the government’s stand that says, “the institute is a “private entity and so it cannot monitor its functioning or activities,” per a report in Economic Times. This should be interpreted as a loud and clear message of its inadequacy in dealing with the Pachauri case. They even go on to say that they have not funded TERI in a major way and their relation is only project-based.

    This is outraging at so many levels. The highly reputed institution favours Pachauri’s ‘legacy’ over the complaint of sexual harassment by a woman. What signal is this case sharing?

    Now, the victim has quit TERI after she was forced to do so by her seniors and is left ‘with a stained CV.’ But she is not ready for a settlement but wants the case to be pursued.

    The law of sexual harassment at workplace was formulated just three years back in 2013 after the country had seen one of the most heinous rapes in its history. But even then, this law has been taken lightly by organisations, as many of the recruiters have not yet implemented it in their workplaces. While the law has been made mandatory for companies having more than 10 employees yet 36% Indian companies have not yet commanded it. 25% among these 36% are MNCs, according to FICCI- EY report of November 2015.

    This entire case puts across two harsh realities of our working society. The workplace environment for women, the awkward situations they are faced with and how senior management uses their tools of power play to harass women. If a woman steps up and protests, it nearly takes every ounce of her strength, self-respect and determination to fight it out, besides in this case she even lost her job.

    Pachauri’s image has certainly taken a hit but his position is anything but hampered. In some years, people might forget of this high-profile case but he will go on holding tight to TERI.

    However, for the time being, the social media is certainly abuzz. People from both the sexes are retaliating to TERI’s decisions Leadership coach and a feminist, Aparna Jain tweeted, “Here is a challenge for people in media. Get the GC of TERI to investigate why they got him back.” Even several media personalities cannot help but question the double standards of TERI. “Silence of Indian society on Pachauri is disturbing. Victim gets resignation and he gets promotion. Double standards of society exposed again,” comments Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor of Zee News.

    This is not something that we should neglect and let go. This is a question of workplace rights must be addressed.