Sexual harassment panel. What’s that? ask govt depts
Vadodara, April 23 “We have three women employees, they are all married and are adults. They know about the resolution. So, we don't feel the need for having such a committee, but we are still in the process of doing so," writes the Gujarat State Co-operative Tribunal in response to an RTI application on the status of Sexual Harassment Committee (SHC) formed in state government offices.
It was on February 7 that Vadodara-based activist Rohit Prajapati filed an application under the RTI Act at the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) to know the status of the SHCs formed in wake of the Patan gangrape incident wherein six teachers were accused of raping a student in a Primary Teacher's College.
Instead of an answer from the CMO, Prajapati has been receiving replies from various departments to which the CMO had forwarded the RTI application. And the answers are very interesting, revealing the lack of understanding of the very concept of SHC in sarkari corridors.
Gujarat State Biotechnology Mission (GSBM) also has an interesting reply. "We do not have an SHC. We appoint employees on contractual basis with a tenure of 11 months. There is very little staff and we have no SHC." Even the Institute of Seismological Research, under the state Department of Science, says that it has no SHC as all the employees are hired on contract. This comes in spite of a Supreme Court directive that binds everyone to have such a committee.
The list of such departments does not end here. The state Health department and even the Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board say that the formation of SHC does not concern them at all and neither do they have one. They perhaps are taking a cue from the Gujarat Administration department, which also says that forming such a committee does not come under its purview.
The answer by College of Nursing in Ahmedabad is even more alarming. The institute says it has no instruction to form any such committee. Incidentally, the college has a fair share of girl students.
Some departments have candidly admitted to the fact that they have no such committee and nor are they in the process of forming one. There are some like the Gujarat Council of Science and Technology where all the members are males, or in some cases, like that of Science and Industrial department, the committee was formed in March 2008.
Prajapati pointed out that the exercise only revealed the utter lack of awareness about the issue in government offices and policy makers. "They are treating it as some routine file pushing affair, many don't even know the basics of SHC formation. Worse, the CMO instead of giving a state-wide picture has pushed the application to all departments," he said.
Incidentally, the Patan PTC where the teachers had gangraped the student also had no sexual harassment committee.