New Delhi: Aparna Geete is a single mother in Bhopal. She had been working with the state public service broadcaster, Doordarshan (DD) for ten years. But in 2015, she began facing problems in getting some of her payments cleared. When she tried to clear that up, Geete says, she was sexually harassed.
“The Assistant Director General at the time knew that I am a single mother began to suggest things to me,” says Geete. “He said to me in one conversation: ‘I know you are away from your husband. So if there is any need we may have for each other, let me know.’ When I told my immediate senior about this, he replied: ‘Sometimes if we want something done for us, we have to do things for others too’.”
Forty-three-year-old Geete was shocked. “That’s when I realised these two men were on each other’s side in this sexual harassment.”
She said these are men she had worked with for years. They used to keep telling her that they “liked her”. “I thought they had respect for my work and that they liked my work.”
At least ten women at different Doordarshan offices around India are fighting cases of sexual harassment, says Veena Bhandari, a lawyer who is representing these women. Six out of these ten cases are women who have faced this abuse at the Delhi DD office. There are nine men who are accused and the cases span from 2015 to 2018, she says.
Geete has decided to not be anonymous about her case: “Only those who have done wrong should hide their face. Not me.”
The internal complaints committee at DD ruled in her favour. She says they were humane and thorough, did a detailed investigation, wrote a 300-page report on her case and recommended the transfer of her perpetrators. But in three years, she has seen no penalty against these men.
“The man who propositioned me has retired and has full government benefits and a pension. The other man has been occupying the same post in Bhopal. He has faced no penalty, he hasn’t even been transferred.”
Bhandari says that a lot of the women she is representing in their cases against Doordarshan are vulnerable and thus exploited.
“Many of them are not permanent employees. They are paid for a part of the month but made to work the full month. The renewal of their contract is made dependent on this. Their appraisals depend on the same seniors who abuse them,” she says.
Another woman who worked at DD for 13 years finds herself without work and pay for the last eight months.
The 36-year-old woman did not want to be identified but said that a programme executive misbehaved with her in his office. She filed a complaint with DD’s internal committee and an FIR a the Hauz Khas Police Station, but she says that in both cases, there has been no movement since March 2018.
“After I complained of the harassment, I was transferred but the accused was not. I keep going to the new office and they are not letting me actually join, and neither are they paying me,” she says.
The Wire has reached out to Supriya Sahu (director general), Neeru Sharma (chief vigilance officer) and P.K. Subhash (additional director general programme) for their responses. This story will be updated if they reply.
On “fake cases” of sexual harassment at DD
In 2012, a parliament question enquired about “fake cases of sexual harassment at workplace” at DD.
DD replied to the question by saying that seven separate cases of sexual harassment had been filed since 2009 against Zafar Iqbal Khan, Harikesh B.S., Kavya Kumar and Mazhar Mehmood.
The women had variously complained that the men had “showed a finger,” were spreading “false and derogatory rumours” and were using “unmentionable language, dominating and intimidating body language”. They said they were facing “harassment and torture by using abusive language,” and were facing threats of boycott.
To the exact question raised in parliament, DD said that none of these complaints were found to be fake.
A range of sexual harassment cases at government offices
Over the last few years, a number of cases of sexual harassment have emerged from both DD and All India Radio (AIR), which together make up the state broadcaster Prasar Bharati.
In 2013, a senior DD official of the rank of an additional director general was prima facie found guilty of sexual harassment and transferred, pending inquiry.
In 2015, a young woman complained of sexual harassment against her programme head in Muzaffarpur. A probe committee found the allegation to be true, but many months later the woman said she had seen no action against the accused.
The same year, another woman accused an assistant director at DD of making obscene comments.
In 2013, AIR admitted in court that a number of radio presenters had faced sexual harassment at AIR.
This year, nine women who complained of sexual harassment at AIR were fired. Ratnakar Bharti, assistant director at a Madhya Pradesh office of DD, was accused of obscene language and forceful physical contact with women at the office, reports The Quint. This month, he was reportedly demoted. A report in Firstpost in November chronicled serious physical sexual harassment that women employees at AIR in Dharamshala, Obra and Kurukshetra had faced.
In 2012, an Air India employee said her colleague was making her watch pornography and physically approaching her. In 2013, a female employee at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India complained that the director of the institute was asking her for sexual favours. This year, Giridhar Madras, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science was asked to take “compulsory retirement” after an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against him.