A week after The Indian Express reported that all ministers’ offices in Maharashtra, including the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), did not have a committee to address complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace, the Maharashtra government on Thursday set up an Internal Committee (IC) to address complaints of women employees in the CMO and all ministers’ offices.
According to the government order, the IC headed by Sunita Jadhav, under secretary, General Administration Department (GAD), with five other members has been formed on Thursday. The five members include two desk officers from GAD, two desk officers from CMO and a non-governmental member.
On March 1, The Indian Express reported that ministers’ offices, including the CMO, in Maharashtra do not have an IC as mandated by law. In response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Indian Express, the CMO had said no IC had been established. In addition, none of the ministers’ offices had such an IC.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, mandates that all places of employment with 10 or more employees should have a functioning IC. While the Maharashtra CM Secretariat has 110 employees, including 20 women, all the ministers’ offices have more than 10 employees. In all, there are 38 ministers, including the Chief Minister.
“All the women employees working on deputation in the CMO and all ministers’ offices can complain about sexual harassment cases to the chairman or secretary of the IC,” stated the government order issued by N K Mali, under secretary, GAD.
Mali said that the IC would conduct the inquiry after receiving complaints and recommend action. Instructions have also been issued to put up a board giving information about the committee at a prime location of the department, he added.
An official from GAD said most ministers’ offices do not have any woman staffers. “There are only four or five ministers’ offices where two or three women each are deputed. That is why, it was decided to set up one committee for all the ministers, including CMO,” the official said.
An RTI request was filed with the CM Secretariat seeking to know the date of formation of the IC as per provisions of law. In its reply, Public Information Officer Geeta Yadav had said, “The establishment works related to the CM Secretariat is handled by Desk 21 of the General Administration Department (GAD),” and hence, such a committee was not established at the CM Secretariat. “However, appropriate action is being taken in the matter after seeking remarks from the concerned departments,” the reply added.
In response to a separate RTI request made to GAD on January 11 regarding ICs in the offices of Maharashtra’s ministers, Public Information Officer N K Mali said officials from various departments are appointed on deputation to the ministers’ offices. The ministers’ establishments are not permanent establishments, and employees in the ministers’ offices are instead “tenure posts” until the council of ministers is in existence, the reply stated.
Mali had further stated that if any complaint is received against an official during his deputation, the officials are then repatriated to their original establishments and action against them taken by the original establishments.