Post-RK Pachauri Teri is safer for women

  • Mahua Venkatesh and Suveen Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 18, 2016 12:51 IST
RK Pachauri resigned as the chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) following accusation of sexual harassment. (HT Archive)

In the six months since Rajendra K Pachauri moved out of Teri under a cloud of sexual harassment charges, the influential energy research institute says it has cleaned itself up. It has put in place a transparent system of appraisals, and will set up an ombudsman whom anyone can approach with grievances.

Besides, chairman Ashok Chawla is presenting a more humane face by reaching out to the woman employee who first complained against Pachauri.

“Earlier, appraisals and promotions were based on personal likes and dislikes,” said Chawla, who joined Teri as chairman in February, while director-general Pachauri first went on a long leave and later resigned. Chawla will take the ombudsman proposal to Teri’s governing council on August 19.

After the charges were first levelled, several people left Teri and it began to get fewer projects from companies. Some projects were scrapped. So far three women employees have accused Pachauri of harassing them. A metropolitan magistrate granted him bail last month and allowed him to go abroad.

Women form a third of Teri’s workforce of 1,200. Nine out of the 28 in its committee of directors are women.

In May, Teri set up a 12-member internal committee, headed by senior fellow Malini Balakrishnan, to look into the HR issues. Energy specialist Veena Joshi, appointed arbiter, spoke to 100 employees about their concerns and submitted her observations to Balakrishnan’s committee. The committee put up its draft report on July 28 on the intranet for employees’ feedback. By September, it will put out the final guidelines.

Aayushi Awashthy, associate fellow, who joined Teri three years ago, said operational changes are palpable. “The perception of the leadership has changed, now there is a sense of sanctity,” she said. “It is a happier place to work, and safer, too.”

However, Teri will have to do more to impress Vrinda Grover, the lawyer representing two of the women who have accused Pachauri. Grover says a report by the second complainant with Teri’s internal complaints committee has been returned on the ground that the case was time-barred. “With the change of guard at Teri, this complaint must be accepted.” Grover also pointed out that Pachauri continues as one of the directors at Teri, Europe. “If Teri is serious about addressing the issue, it should remove Pachauri from all posts.”

Chawla said the organization is trying to get in touch with the first complainant. “There has been no communication with her from our side since the time the incident took place. She has been fighting it all alone and it is not easy, I have asked [my office] to get in touch with her to comfort her and promise her all the support.”

His measures, along with the new internal complaints committee set up last September, are meant to rid Teri of the personality cult built around Pachauri. Chosen to set up the organization in 1974 by Darbari Seth of Tata Chemicals, Pachauri had become synonymous with it. The ad hoc system of appraisals did not help, since it may have made some employees feel compelled to go beyond their call of duty if they wanted better salaries.

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