HYDERABAD: On the account of Women’s Day, the State government declared special casual leave for all its women employees. But, it seems to have done precious little to ensure safety and security to them. The Sexual Harassment Act mandates that every organisation that employs more than 10 people, both in private and public sector, should have an internal complaints committee (ICC). However, such a committee is non-existent in the State education department.
Speaking to Express, officials of Directorate of School Education(DSE) and Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education(TSBIE) said that they neither have such a cell nor a grievance box where complaints can anonymously be dropped. “There is no grievance box system here. If anyone has a problem, they can take up the matter with the secretary of the Board,” said Krupakar Reddy from TSBIE.
Another DSE official, on condition of anonymity, also confirmed that there was not ICC in their department. “The commissioner is the highest in the organisational hierarchy and all grievances are presented to him, who then takes it up with the relevant head of the division.”
Both officials feigned ignorance about the constitution of an ICC. Interestingly, the Sexual Harassment Act not just mandates the constitution of ICC, it also propagates its promotion and ready display of the consequences that predators will face along with details of the members of the ICC. The committee should be headed by a chairperson, a senior-level employee, and have two members who are active in social work and one member who works on women issues. The committee should have at least half of its members as women.
No grievance cell for women in any state govt dept
Unfortunately, four years since the Act was passed none of Telangana government departments, barring the Secretariat, have constituted a sexual harassment cell or ICC—be it education, police, health or agriculture. Nearly six months ago the National Forum for Women Teachers submitted a representation to the women’s commission demanding the setting up of the cell. “A near defunct Women’s Commission and an apathetic government have done little on this front,” said M Samyukta, the national convener of the organisation.
Currently, she added, teachers take up the matter directly with the District Education Officer. Most matters get resolved too because they are mostly regarding infighting and ego clashes between teachers. Sexual harassment cases are few and far in between.“This perhaps is the outcome of the fact that there is no privacy that a case of sexual exploitation would otherwise require.
It discourages teachers to come out and seek redressal,” she added. If any sexual harassment case of a student comes to light, a committee would be constituted by the DEO at the district level and MEO at mandal level to investigate the matter. “It is constituted as and when such an issue is reported,” said the State United Teachers Federation general secretary Chavva Ravi. NALSAR University professor and activist Amita Dhanda said the courts too have stopped using their power to ask the government why they are not doing things they are mandated to do.
‘Set up Woman Grievance Box in government offices’
Rajya Sabha member MA Khan has also written to chief secretary, SK Joshi lamenting that the government was not fulfilling its obligation towards its women employees by not implementing the provision under the Sexual Harassment Act. He has demanded setting up of Woman Grievance Box in all government offices, schools and colleges.