As outrage mounts over The Energy and Resources Institute’s decision to promote and vest executive powers with R K Pachauri, accused of sexual harassment by a colleague who later resigned, another former TERI employee stepped forward Wednesday to level similar allegations.
Claiming that sexual harassment by Pachauri, now TERI’s Executive Vice Chairman, is “an open secret” in the organisation, the woman said she joined the institute in 2003 and worked for over a year. She alleged that a few months into her employment, Pachauri began harassing her and did not stop until she quit.
Referring to Pachauri as a “serial sexual harasser”, she said she was compelled to speak out after his “big promotion” and that everyone standing by him “knows the kind of man he is”.
“He would travel very often but whenever he was back at the TERI building, he would go floor to floor and pass by cabins and work stations, winking at women and chatting with them,” the woman told The Indian Express.
“I was then in my 20s. I did not need to interact with him initially but a few months later, I was put into a position where my interaction with him increased and then the harassment began,” she said.
In a statement released Wednesday, she said: “He had renamed me with a sexually suggestive nickname. He said that this was a derivative of my official name and suited me far better. Pachauri would use the excuse of work assignments to repeatedly call me to his office room, even though there was no real work that he needed to discuss. This made me feel very uncomfortable and I used to try to dodge some meetings or ask my colleagues to go for the meetings.”
“He told me that he had been working on a novel and would like me to read and make suggestions before he handed it to the publisher… When I thumbed through the manuscript, I came across graphic descriptions of sex. I was horrified and angry that he gave something of this nature to a young, female employee who was younger than his children. It was much later, after I had quit TERI, that the novel ‘Return to Almora’ got published. I did not read the novel but the reviews spoke of a ‘steamy’ story, reminding me of the anguish I had experienced while I was working at TERI,” she said in her statement.
“On another occasion when I was in his office room because he had asked me to see him, he completely, against my wishes, forcibly held and kissed me on my face just as I was leaving the room. I was shocked and very upset and left his office immediately,” she said.
When contacted by PTI, Pachauri’s lawyer Ashish Dixit said he had not seen the second complaint and cannot comment.
The victim narrated the case of a research scholar who accompanied Pachauri on an environment conference out of town, “and she never came back to office, not even to collect her salary”. She claimed several women at TERI are aware of his behaviour but do not come forward owing to family pressures.
“I tried to get other women at TERI, whom I had known during my time there, to come together and speak up against this man but they somehow did not want to speak up. I wanted to strengthen the first complainant’s case against this man. I know every word she has said is true.”
She complained of police inaction when she spoke out against Pachauri after the first case came to light. “I contacted my counsel Vrinda Grover who met with DCP Prem Nath on February 26, 2015. Vrinda Grover sent a follow-up letter on March 4, 2015 to him and also a letter to the Police Commissioner on April 7, 2015. All this was done so that I could get my statement recorded. However, till date I have not heard from police,” she alleged.
When his comments were sought, DCP (South) Prem Nath told The Indian Express: “Vrinda Grover informed us that two former employees of TERI were allegedly molested by Pachauri around eight years ago and they now wanted to lodge a complaint against him.
We then asked her to give us their complaint or come along with them.”
Grover said the victims would meet the police “only under the law which requires police to meet the victims at an appropriate place and not the police station”.
Meanwhile, a section of students at TERI university have decided not to accept degrees at the convocation next month from Pachauri who is the Chancellor.
Students who graduated from the university last year are been awarded degrees in March. “Invites have gone out to the students to attend the convocation stating that the ‘honourable’ chancellor (Dr Pachauri) will be giving out the degrees. We strongly oppose this. We do not want degrees from someone accused of sexual harassment whether or not the charges have been proven,” a student said.
The alumni will be holding a meeting before the convocation to take a final call on boycotting it. “It isn’t about not taking degrees from him, we will not attend the convocation if he attends it,” another student said.
In a statement, the alumni of the university said the “appointment of any person to one of the senior most positions of the same organisation where the alleged crime occurs is outrightly unfortunate”. The alumni have also warned that Pachauri’s promotion “sends out an extremely wrong message to all TERI employees and TERI university students, through indirect intimidation and by essentially suppressing their voices forever. As a Vice Chairman with executive powers, Dr Pachauri could potentially have all powers as well as access to continue to intimidate witnesses of the case.”
Besides the alumni, students currently enrolled at the university have also opposed Pachauri’s presence at the convocation. “As long as he faces charges, he should take responsibility and step aside. If he is still around by the time I graduate, I will not accept my degree from him,” a final-year student said.