RK Pachauri’s elevation as executive vice-chairman of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri)may have been lambasted by a 29-year-old woman who has charged him with sexual harassment but the episode shows that his tight grip over the environment group has not diminished.
The controversial promotion answered one key question: That Pachauri’s control over the organisation continued during the sexual harassment investigation and it will flourish despite Ajay Mathur taking over as the new director general.
Teri confirmed Pachauri was heading the institute for almost the entire period of investigation.
The institute’s spokesperson told HT Pachauri continued to serve as director-general (DG) of Teri with the “mandate” entrusted to him by the governing council.
Soon after sexual harassment charges were levelled last February, he went on leave and the governing council appointed Leena Srivastava as acting DG in his absence. It was only in July 2015 when a court allowed Pachauri to access his office that senior Teri officials decided to relieve Srivastava of her charge as acting DG.
“Since July 23 Dr Pachauri is the director-general. That is official,” a senior Teri functionary told HT.
When Pachauri resumed work at Teri headquarters, the 29-year-old researcher was working in the same office. And her senior was holding meetings with Pachauri on a daily basis, which Teri says were only for “official” purposes.
A Teri employee, who did not wish to be named, recalled the unease in the institute as the DG office became “hyper-active” during the period and the complainant’s open letter on Tuesday has confirmed this.
“I don’t know whether the case was being discussed but the entire activity showed that Pachauri was very strong still and his writ ran large,” a researcher with a leading educational institution in Delhi, who worked with Teri as a project head, said.
Senior functionaries reportedly used to visit Pachauri’s home when he was debarred by court from entering the Teri headquarters between March and July 2015. This was the period when Srivastava was the acting DG as Pachauri was officially on leave.
A senior Teri functionary did not deny this, saying Pachauri was overseeing certain projects himself, especially the overseas ones, and the section heads may have gone to seek some “clarifications”. “Everyone in Teri is free to consult an old and experienced hand like Pachauri,” the functionary explained. Around one-third of TERI employees get their salaries from projects abroad.
All this may have had a bearing on the complainant who resigned in the first week of November, accusing the advocacy group of treating her in the “worst possible manner” and causing “professional” and “emotional” harm to her.
What apparently came in handy for Pachauri’s continued reign?was the delay in joining of his replacement Ajay Mathur.
“I am excited. I will be joining in three months,” Mathur had told HT when he was appointed in July last year. In December, a Teri spokesperson told HT that Mathur would be joining on January 4. When this correspondent met Mathur during the Paris climate summit in December, the initial enthusiasm was missing but he was willing to take the plunge. “Let’s see what happens” was his refrain.
Mathur finally joined on Monday with news that Pachauri will continue to mentor the organisation. Insiders say he will have operational control over foreign projects for the time being.
Insiders say after the complaint Pachauri’s position has got stronger and that has become evident from his redesignation as executive vice-president. “I don’t think it will change much even after Mathur joins,” one of them said.
“Shamelessness abounds! The news of promotion of a man who stands booked on charges of sexual harassment at workplace, stalking and criminal intimidation by country’s who’s who makes my flesh crawl,” the 29-year-old researcher wrote while reacting to Pachauri’s elevation.
Pachauri’s lawyer Ashish Dixit denied all allegations made against the Teri boss, saying there was nothing wrong in his appointment as executive vice-chairman.
But, all that has happened in the past year show most organisations still favour the man and it is still difficult for a woman to get some justice.