Photo Credit: Eitan Abramovich/AFP
On Monday, RK Pachauri, the former head of The Energy and Resources Institute or TERI, was promoted as the organisation’s executive vice chairman, even as he faces sexual harassment charges from a former colleague.
Pachauri is the first person to hold the newly created position of vice chairman, reportedThe Indian Express. His new job was announced the day TERI’s new director general, Ajay Mathur, took charge from him.
Last February, a junior colleague had accused Pachuri of sexual harassment and he was asked to go on leave. In May, an internal committee report found him guilty of misusing his position and breaking the norms of the organisation’s sexual harassment policy. The investigating committee also noted that the 29-year-old complainant’s health had been “adversely affected” because of the stress caused by Pachauri’s conduct.
But Pachuri was back in the office in July, after a court stayed the report.
The woman later resigned from TERI.
Since charges were filed in February, other women have also spoken up, recounting how they were harassed by Pachauri over the years. They painted a picture of a repeat offender who used his power to enforce silence on his victims and win immunity for his actions.
On Tuesday, the woman released this open letter.
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.
While a prayer lay in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi seeking suspension of RK Pachauri (in compliance with the basics of the SH [Sexual Harassment] act so that my rights to work are unaffected), TERI’s Governing Council held a meeting around the same time because the man was looking to maintain his foothold in TERI. It was around 03 Oct, 2015, that I first heard of this from some current and former colleagues. I was sceptical in thinking that the organisation would not pour cheap, third rated oil to the existing smouldering fire.
I was so wrong!
I was then made aware that the esteemed Governing Council of TERI is due to meet again in the same month and this time, as per some genuine well-wishers, the plan was to throw mud on me as well as the entire process and thus facilitate a promotion for RK Pachauri. The Governing Council of TERI met twice within a month to address insecurities of RK Pachauri and could not even hold a meeting over my complaint or my letter to them (dated 03 April, 2015) nor could they meet to discuss the ICC [internal complaints committee] report presented on 19 May, 2015. They had the time and the will to convene two board meetings in a span of one month. This was very unheard of considering that TERI GC would only meet once every year per Rules and Regulations of TERI.
For a research organisation, priority was given to meetings held by Senior Directors and Area Convenors to corner my colleagues, to get them to have me agree on a reconciliation, saying things like “Ask your lady friend to settle out of court. That would be best for her as she has nothing more left to achieve.” Not a day passed without a message showing up on my mobile, warning me or bringing forth concerns. One told me: “We are hearing that ‘Victim’ has settled. I told them clearly that the complainant has not settled and she wouldn’t. But they don’t seem to believe me.” Another said: “They were asking me about your family background.” Yet another: “My computer is always watched by the IT Department because they know that I support you.”
The ICC was dissolved. The ICC president resigned from her job at the Institute. The external member of the ICC is a woman who has expertise in the said field and a novice was brought in as her replacement for matters of convenience. The current ICC has his people. TERI and RK Pachauri are inseparable.
Was I really hoping that the hostility would end? It only went from bad to worse.
The GC’s new candidate to lead TERI (into darkness) is in the middle of four court cases (yes, one ICC report snowballed into five court cases) and facing grave criminal charges. With such qualifications he is deemed fit to lead an organisation. If that was not enough, the Governing Council is considering giving him operational powers. Reason being, it is required for foreign funding.
Right, the act of persistence is best performed by a man who doesn’t understand meaning of the word “no”.
For someone in my position who has had zero support from the organisation, being made made privy to such developments was most disturbing. What in the world was I to expect and why would I risk more than what is lost already. Not just the Governing Council but others in TERI have shown where their conscience leans (if any). If quitting was not enough, TERI Media Executive went ahead and publicised information leading to my identity to the press. Those women who did not testify to the ICC were “rewarded” with unjust promotions in designations, projects and travel approvals (to name a few) and continued to remain quiet, remain involved.
I spoke up and was quarantined from work. Not allowed to resume work and no earnings for a long time. No money and a tainted Curriculum Vitae gave me sleepless nights. It was getting beyond my dignity to be associated with such an organisation and in the best of my interest, I quit. I felt most lighter in my mind and body on quitting TERI.
I deserved better.
I use this platform to further convey that the case stands as it is, I assure I will take it to its logical conclusion.