RK Pachauri digs his heels in, ‘victim’ exits TERI

She said that despite the enquiry committee finding Pachauri guilty of misconduct, the organisation has "failed" to do the "bare minimum" to ensure that she is not impacted.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: November 5, 2015 3:09 am
TERI, RK Pachauri, TERI Pachauri The complainant had registered a complaint against Pachauri for sexual harassment at the workplace and lodged an FIR with Delhi Police in February 2015. (Source: PTI photo)

More than three months after an exit plan was prepared for him in the wake of charges of sexual harassment, R K Pachauri continues to be at the helm of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and would remain so for at least two more months.

His designated successor, Ajay Mathur, currently director general of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, will not take over from Pachauri until next year, sources have told The Indian Express. According to sources, Pachauri is reluctant to let go of his powers and has asked he be made the chairman of TERI with executive powers.

Mathur has been asked by the government to continue in his position till the climate change conference in Paris, which runs from November 30 to December 11. He has been a key member of the Indian negotiating team in the past.

“The government has informed me that they cannot relieve me before CoP-21 (the official name of climate change conference). A decision on a relieving date will be taken after that,” Mathur told The Indian Express.

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Pachauri, who has served two terms as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was accused of sexual harassment by a junior colleague earlier this year, following which he proceeded on leave from TERI, an organisation he built and nurtured for almost three-and-a-half decades. In July this year, he returned after a court allowed him to do so on the condition that he would not visit the TERI headquarters, where he used to sit earlier.

Shortly thereafter, the governing council of TERI chose Mathur as the next director general to replace Pachauri. Mathur had sought a maximum of 90 days to take over because he had to serve a notice period in his current job. The 90-day period ended last week.

The statement of the governing council announcing its decision to appoint Mathur did not say anything about the future role of Pachauri, who continued to function as director general in the interim, amid protests from several employees. The woman, who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment, has also resigned from TERI, saying she had been treated in the “worst possible manner” by the organisation.

While Mathur’s requirement for the climate change conference is being given as the reason for the delay in the change of guard, several sources told The Indian Express that it was actually Pachauri’s reluctance to let go of his powers that had prevented Mathur from taking over.

Sources said that in recent meetings of the governing council in Bangalore, Pachauri asked to be made the chairman of TERI with executive powers. In its current form, the chairman’s office does not have executive powers.

TERI’s current chairman B V Sreekantan, who chaired the recent meetings of the governing council, refused to comment on the issue. Pachauri did not answer phone calls and was not available in office.

Sources said Pachauri, as an alternative, also proposed to create a post of vice-chairman with executive powers for himself. He is understood to be interested in retaining the charge of administration, human resources and finance.

But Mathur, who started his career with TERI in 1986, is learnt to have made it clear that he would not take up his new assignment if he does not get full executive powers. Mathur attended a function at TERI Tuesday and is learnt to have informally told some people that the earliest he can join is in the first week of January, sources said.

Meanwhile, the woman who accused Pachauri of sexual harassment, said in her resignation letter, “TERI failed to uphold my interests as an employee, let alone protecting them. The organisation has instead protected R K Pachauri and provided him full immunity, despite being held guilty of sexual harassment by your own inquiry committee.”

She added, “I refuse to be associated with an organisation such as yours for the way you have mistreated me, for not standing by the law, for not having respect for my capabilities, for doing nothing to ensure that my career is not harmed and instead harmed me mentally, professionally and economically.”

TERI issued a statement Wednesday, claiming it had, as an organisation, remained completely neutral in this affair, and said the woman’s allegations against it were “completely false and baseless”.

“The organisation has not favoured anyone, which is a fact apparent from documented records,” the statement said.

TERI pointed out that the woman had been on unpaid leave since May 26 this year and had given no indication when she wished to resume work. “In most organisations, there is a time limit on the extent to which leave without pay is allowed,” it said.

The woman, however, took strong objection to the fact that the TERI statement had revealed details, like her hometown and her qualifications, that could reveal her identity.