Five months after Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, as well as the National Commission for Women (NCW), called for a probe into the widespread allegations of sexual harassment in All India Radio stations, the workers’ union representing the many complainants has asked the women’s commission to reopen the matter owing to lack of any action from the national broadcaster.
In its order passed on January 14, 2019, the NCW directed Prasar Bharati to give a hearing to all 17 complainants from across the country where such allegations have been made and report back to the NCW on the action taken against the accused in all cases. However, in its letter sent to the NCW this Thursday, the All India Radio Casual Announcer and Comperes Union (AIRCACU) pointed out that not only have AIR and Prasar Bharati authorities not taken any action against the perpetrators “but also terminated services of some of the victims under the pretext of re-evaluation of their performance”.
In the course of the #MeToo movement, The Indian Express had reported on accounts by AIR’s casual women employees in Shahdol and Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, Obra in Uttar Pradesh, Kurukshetra in Haryana, and Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh being subject to sexual harassment by their male superiors, all permanent employees. In November 2018, Maneka Gandhi wrote to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to probe the series of sexual harassment complaints while the NCW too announced that it will set up an inquiry panel to look into the matter.
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma told The Indian Express, “We had a hearing in January which was attended by senior officials including Prasar Bharati CEO (Shashi S Vempati) and AIR Director General (F Sheheryar) and the workers’ union following which we gave the orders. If there has been no compliance, then I need to find out why.”
The union’s letter which mentions all of the above cases in addition to similar sexual harassment cases in Delhi, Varanasi and Rampur reads, “We urge the NCW to reopen the matter to ascertain the judiciousness of the actions taken by the misogynist AIR authorities. ”
One of the complainants, Shanti Verma, has now announced that she will sit on fast-unto-death from April 15 if AIR fails to address her issue. “It has been three years now that I have stopped being assigned any duty by AIR Obra after I complained of sexual harassment by the station head. ” While AIR DG Sheheryar did not comment, Prasar Bharati CEO Vempati said, “All India Radio has already looked into the cases and clarified its position. We have laid down all factual details before the NCW and there is nothing further on this…”