Right to Information
Appellate Authority at NCW is accused of sexual harassment. Is there any hope for the victim?
Sexual harassment and crimes against women continue to dent our country’s image, but what does one say when the National Women’s Commission’s itself is accused of indifference to a woman staffer’s petition alleging sexual harassment by Deputy Secretary VVB Raju? Worse, the accused is the designated the First Appellate Authority under RTI (http://ncw.nic.in/frmRTI_Officers.aspx) and in a position to stall information.
 
The matter has been taken up by the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has issued a show cause notice to the accused, following a second appeal by the victim.  The complainant, a research assistant, was allegedly harassed by VVB Raju. The CIC has slammed the NCW for its apathy and for ignoring the victim’s application. It has also recommended a clean-up of NCW’s RTI wing to remove tainted officers from key positions and to facilitate the inspection of files by the RTI applicant.
 
In 2016, the victim submitted a complaint of sexual harassment to the Member Secretary of NCW. Her complaint said: “for the last four months I have been going through huge problems in the same work and the routine. Some four months back a new Deputy Secretary has come to the Commission whose attitude and behaviour is objectionable. Mr VVB Raju, who is the new DS, started harassing me ever since he joined the Commission. He insists that I should come to him in person to get his signatures and that too in the evening, only after 5:30pm. When I refused to stay after 5:30pm for getting his signatures, then he threatened he would complain to the Chairperson of the Commission and will throw me out of the job”. 
 
Her case was addressed by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of the National Women’s Commission. However, the ICC’s report did not go to the Disciplinary Committee for action. So, the victim filed a RTI application seeking file notings, correspondence regarding extension (or non-extension) of contract of her employment, inquiry report, statements of witnesses, action taken on report and so on. 
 
She did not receive any information but was given a letter by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to contact ‘higher-ups’. She made telephone calls in response to instructions in that letter, but they were not answered. She then filed First Appeal but was told that she cannot get information as it is `third party information.’’ The victims says that she needs the documents to fight her case before the various Authorities and the Competent Court. As there was no response to her RTI application, emails, telephonic requests, first appeal, visits to the NCW and other efforts, she filed a second appeal to the CIC.
 
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu, the central information commissioner who heard the case observes: “…It is not known why NCW office was acting totally against the rights of the appellant and there was not an iota of effort to address her grievance or complaint or a problem and why the RTI wing of the NCW has totally blocked access to information to the appellant. And, above all, the Member Secretary is silent on her complaint.’’ 
He further says, ``the submission of the appellant reflects unhealthy environment at workplace in the forum, which is supposed to protect the rights of women. Her right to life, right to work and right to information were seriously endangered by sexual harassment by senior officer.’’
 
There was no representative from NCW at the CIC hearing, which irritated the commissioner. He says, the``non-response of National Commission for Women to two complaints of sexual harassment within their organization, allowing an officer who was accused of sexual harassment, to deal with the first appeal under RTI Act…If this is the fate of a woman who is working as research assistant in National Commission for Women, what will be the plight of ordinary women outside the NCW?’’  
 
The commissioner has demanded an explanation from the NCW with regard to its breach of two statutes on Sexual Harassment and Right to Information. The CIC has also ordered that NCW should facilitate the following. 
 
Allow a file inspection of ``statements, inquiry report, action taken on that, and provide certified copies of the documents sought, free of cost, along with the files pertaining to increasing remuneration of ICC members,and witnesses. File notings of extension of contract of appellant including remarks of satisfactory work, along with the inquiry report and action taken report on that, free of cost
He has asked the CPIO of NCW to give reason why he should not be slammed with maximum penalty
The alleged accused and First Appellate Authority, VB Raju has been asked why disciplinary action should not be recommended against him for violating the law in dealing with first appeal under RTI Act. That he is the accused in the sexual harassment case points to a clear conflict of interest;
The Member Secretary has been asked to explain why the NCW should not be ordered to pay compensation to the appellant for the harassment, and to explain his action/inaction on the complaint of the appellant. 
CIC has recommended to the chairperson of the NCW ``to save the credibility and reputation of NCW, within reasonable time and perform its duty to cleanse the RTI wing including the First Appellate Authority to make it objective and secure it from misconduct and breach by officers.’’
 
The commissioner also observed that  “members in the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) were contractual staff of NCW. How can it be expected from a contractual staff to go against the management? And this Contractual Staff was later enormously rewarded by increasing their remuneration two-fold without any adequate justification. The order increasing remuneration states that the expenditure involved is to be charged under Plan Head "Research Studies" whereas their work does not correlate to "Research Study" in any manner whatsoever. Even the witnesses who gave statements before ICC were also adequately compensated for their contribution, by doubling the remuneration without any justification.’’
 
``The second appeal clearly shows that she was further victimized because of her bold complaint against sexual harassment of First Appellate Authority, by reducing her term of contract and then by removing from her position. 
 
``First her contractual term of job was reduced, then not extended, along with two other employees. Thereafter, these two employees were re-instated in the month of April 2017, but appellant was left out. The sudden increase in remuneration of contractual employees who were on inquiry committee as witnesses strengthen the allegation of conspiracy to harass the appellant and strategic plan to remove her.’’
 
``The NCW should not have abdicated the good governance principles of responding to complaint…’’
 
(Full CIC’s show cause notice here: CIC/NCFWO/A/2017/135800)
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 
 

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COMMENTS

Ravindra Malve

4 months ago

Shocking and shameful incident for NCW. What about other women who has hope and faith in NCW? It will send wrong message to them.

Muneer mohd

4 months ago

Nicely explained your childhood
Its a reminder to look back to my childhood
Thankyou sir

Pahadi baba

4 months ago

NCW needs to follow what they preach to other men outside NCW to follow.

Is This Slum Rehabilitation or Retired Officials’ Rehabilitation?
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) was created to rehabilitate slum-dwellers in Mumbai and make the city slum-free. However, almost 80% of the officers and staff at SRA are non-governmental and work on contract basis, reveals a reply received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
 
The reply received by RTI activist Anil Galgali shows that out of the 403 officers and staff at SRA, almost 80% are working on contract. This includes those re-appointed after retirement from government service. "These external staff do not have any responsibility affixed on them thereby turning the SRA into Developer's Rehabilitation Authority, the latest being role played by SRA's Chief Executive Officer, who cleared hundreds of files just before his retirement," Galgali said.
 
As per the roster approved for Mumbai SRA, there are 99 posts, of which 65 have been filled up and 34 are vacant. Of the 34 vacant posts, one post each is of legal advisor and under-secretary, five posts of nayab tahsildar, and 18 of sub-engineer. There are 73 officers working in SRA on deputation. Apart from these, SRA hired the services of 75 clerks and 38 peons through Eagle Security and Personal Services. The SRA has appointed 98 clerks and peons on contract as well. 
 
Fifty four retired officers have been reinstated in SRA. This includes three Chief Legal Advisors, one Chief Coordinator, one Deputy Collector, nine Nayab Tahsildars, one Public Relations Officer, one Complaints Redressal Officer, two Collector's Land officers, two Deputy Auditors, and 13 Surveyors, the RTI reply shows.
 
Galgali, in a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has demanded that the government give preference to staff and officers appointed through its own services, rather than appointing retired officers and staff on contract. Also the CEO and senior officials of the SRA should be made accountable for the slow progress of projects under SRA, the RTI activist demanded.

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COMMENTS

GLN Prasad

4 months ago

As a citizen I am only concerned with getting my job done, who does it, and how they does it not my issue. If only Govt. can deliver the services properly within time , I am happy and I do not have any grievance on the way they function.

No LPG connection in 6 northeast states till May; 4.3 million in UP, under Ujjwala, RTI reveals
In six out of eight northeastern states, the Modi government failed to provide even a single LPG connection under its flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).
 
The Yojana is an initiative on whose success the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rode to power in Uttar Pradesh, having provided over 4.3 million connections in the state to BPL families.
 
The information was received from Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) through an RTI application by IANS in May.
 
According to the RTI reply, till May 8, 2017, not a single family benefitted from the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in states like Arunchal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
 
Just the two BJP-ruled states in northeast India -- Assam and Manipur -- saw five and 27 LPG connections, respectively.
 
In Assam, Baksa district received one connection, Darrang got one, Dhemaji district one and Dibrugarh got two.
 
In Manipur, Kakching district received highest number of connections with 15, followed by eight in Thoubal, two in Imphal West and one each in Jiribam and Churachandpur.
 
The RTI reply also says that till May 8, 2017, a total of 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh have released 4,337,706 connections under the PMUY.
 
The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2016, in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh in the run up to the assembly elections in the state, which was held from February 11 to March 8 this year in seven phases.
 
The BJP swept through the assembly elections in Uttar Pardesh, bagging 325 seats out of 403 seats and dislodging the Samajwadi Party government, which along with the Congress could manage only 54 seats.
 
It is believed that women in UP were pleased with the central government's initiative and voted for the BJP.
 
The RTI reply also said that till May 8, 2017, a total of 21.933 million connections had been released in the whole country under PMUY.
 
However, to a question as to how much the government had spent under the scheme in Uttar Pradesh and in the whole country, the reply came that the information was not available with IOCL.
 
Meanwhile, on the website of PMUY under the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, it is mentioned that till July 1, 704 districts had been covered and 24.4 million BPL LPG connections had been released.
 
The BJP came to power also in Assam last year (2016) and Manipur early this year, uprooting the Congress governments.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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