Despite having a women’s development cell (WDC) to address sexual harassment complaints, the Mumbai University doesn’t seem to be very serious about tackling the issue.
In its reply to a right to information (RTI) query filed by activist Anil Galgali, the WDC claimed that it had probed at least 14 cases of sexual harassment between March 2009 and October 2011. However, till date, the university and the colleges concerned have taken action against only three.
Of the remaining 11, allegations in four cases could not be substantiated and the WCD is still probing two complaints. In the other five cases, the WDC’s recommendations were completely disregarded.
While the five-member WDC was set up in 2001, the university mandarins thought of empowering the panel with a set of rules and regulations seven years after its formation. The panel couldn’t function properly, especially in the area of sexual harassment, without guidelines from the vice-chancellor’s office.
“Considering its name and fame, female students and staff members expect the [Mumbai] University to be more proactive in setting an example by punishing the guilty. But the facts that have come up in the RTI reply are very worrying,” Galgali told Hindustan Times.
However, Dr Kranti Jejurkar, executive president of the WDC strongly defended her panel saying that the onus of taking action against was on the university and the colleges affiliated to it. “We have played our role to perfection and recommended action. It’s up to them [university and colleges] to act,” Jejurkar said.
Jejurkar also blamed increasing privatisation of education. “I think in some cases, the university may not have control over colleges. The university can at least be more strict with aided colleges by stopping the salary of erring persons.”
When contacted, Rajan Velukar, vice-chancellor, said the university was very sensitive towards cases of sexual harassment. “The employer has to take strict action against the guilty only after considering all legal aspects [of the case].”