During this difficult time of Corona virus outbreak, how can we as women cope better and support each other? Check our special feed and learn more!

Haryana IAS Officer Rani Nagar Resigns Due To Workplace Harassment And Safety Concerns

Posted: May 11, 2020

Harassed by her seniors in ways that could have become dangerous had she not been alert to it, IAS officer Rani Nagar resigns, publicly posting about her ordeal.

IAS Rani Nagar has created a storm ever since she posted her resignation as the Additional Director, Social Justice and Empowerment on the grounds of harassment and ‘personal safety on government duty’ on her Facebook page.

Serious charges of harassment against seniors

She has levied some serious harassment charges against her seniors. She has also posted a video on 17th of April saying that her, as well as her sister’s life is in danger, and her senior will be responsible if anything happens to them. She has already filled a complaint in the court against her senior Sunil K Gulati and members of Chandigarh Police.

She accuses that her personal safety was threatened multiple times during performing of her duty. She had previously informed that she will resign as soon as the lock down is over, but she submitted her resignation on May 4th to her seniors and made it public on her social media account. She has documented various safety concerns like the door on her guest room being broken to the extent that anyone can see through it, a stapler pin found in her food, breaking and entering of her room etc. She has constantly updated her where about with precise details on social media and repeatedly stated that her life is in danger.

In 2018, she had accused the same senior officer Mr Sunil Gulati and Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary of sexual harassment but they were given a clean chit on the matter. She has said that she has been experiencing harassment ever since she was posted in Ambala and has filled repeated complaints against it to various officials as well as the judiciary but no significant action has been taken to ensure her safety.

This raises some serious questions on the safety of women in elite workforce like the Civil Services. Ms Nagar has detailed her harassment both sexual and otherwise in her social media accounts. Her constant update on her location, various bills and receipt showing her transport details as well as the video statement indicates that she has been living under great stress of personal safety for over two years now. She had also filled complaint against an auto driver allegedly trying to kidnap her. In the above video she talks about her official drivers masturbating while she was in the car when she was just a trainee in Ambala.

If the top level female government employees are not feeling safe what is the hope for rest of the female work force in India? Not just a singular occurrence but repeated mental torture of a high level Civil Servant by various influential men gives us a brief look into the safety of women in India. I would like to remind you that in 2018, India was ranked one of the most dangerous place for women with which the GOI vehemently disagreed.

Political parties as well as activities groups have already appealed to the government of Haryana to look into this serious matter. The Haryana government on the other hand has refused to accept her resignation and insisted that the centre do the same.

This is a form of very serious secondary harassment for Rani Nagar as she will not be able to withdraw her NPS (National Pension System) amount and other benefits unless the resignation gets accepted.

Earlier similar issues in the IAS cadre

She is not the first IAS officer to accuse her seniors of sexual harassment.

In 2015 Riju Bafna, an IAS officer said, “Oh Lord! I can only pray that no woman is born in this country,regarding her sexual harrasment while in duty. Her senior (ironically from the Human Rights Department of MP) was fired. In 2018 a group of former civil servants wrote to the President and Prime Minister to take action against a senior minister on charges of sexual assault by 16 women. It is to be noted that all of these cases involved independent, capable women with full knowledge of legal provisions and access to proper redressal methods.

Ms Bafna, later detailed how her judicial hearing was a form of secondary harassment where she had to recount every atrocity, and her lawyer was insensitive towards her right to privacy. She was an AIR 77 holder in the 2013 Civil Service Examination.

It brings into question that are we really following through on the #BetiBachaoBetiPadhao campaign? Our Betis are not safe even when they are highly educated and financially independent.

Earlier this year ex CJ Ranjan Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment and got a clean chit and later became a nominated member of Rajya Sabha.

Workplace struggles of women in the corporate sector

Women in India are so used to being harassed at every step that complaining against perpetrators seems useless. From being ‘slut-shamed’ in school by teachers, harassed in busses and roads, inappropriate remarks by professors and male students in colleges, and finally after surviving all of this when we get a job, the harassment just keeps going there as well. Most women do not have the luxury of leaving or transferring immediately when the harassment occurs in the work place.

We have become so jaded that we tolerate this behaviour for the sake of financial independence.

If an employee complaints against her senior or the company for gender bias and harassment, it becomes almost impossible for her to get a fresh job because she is considered as a ‘risky’ candidate. Most women don’t even tell their families about the harassment because the family will immediately demand that she quit her job and get married to ensure her ‘safety’. Temporary employees and interns are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment. On top of that, the process of inquiry is not victim friendly and often perpetrators who are seniors with more connections and influence get clean chit.

These are all organised sector scenarios; the condition of women in unorganised sector is unimaginable.

What Does The Law Say?

In 2013, a Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act came into effect which took the guidelines of Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan judgement of SC in 1997. It states that ‘sexual harassment’ includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) namely:—

  • physical contact and advances; or
  • a demand or request for sexual favours; or
  •  making sexually coloured remarks; or
  • showing pornography; or
  • any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of s

This act mandates an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employee. This has some major loopholes, there is only a 50,0000 rupees penalty for failing to set up an ICC committee, this is a very nominal amount for any company which results in most company not constituting this committee even to this day. In India, there is still no provision or law that deals with insensitivity in handling the sexual abuse cases and the secondary trauma faced by victims during judicial procedures.

Education, moral awareness and sexual abuse

In India women walk on the tightrope of social acceptability with the swords of ‘dishonour’ looming over their heads. But who are these abusers? How can such ‘well qualified’ and ‘educated’ men do such heinous things? The answer to that is right in front of our eyes.

When students of elite schools like the ones involved in the ‘Boys locker room’ fiasco get into prestigious colleges and eventually into the workforce, there casual ‘talks’ and ‘discussions’ become opportunities to harass and abuse their subordinates.

The greatest myth that the middle class Indian believe is that ‘education’ is the solution to all problems, that ‘education’ equals ethical and moral awareness. Both the ‘boys locker room’ and the resignation of Rani Nagar are proof that even among the most privileged class, women are still victimized and even the most elite societies encourages rape culture, misogyny and objectification of women. However, both these cases also prove that women will no longer tolerate everything quietly. We will demand justice and expose the abusers.

We need to dismantle rape culture and misogyny from the ground level, which includes providing counselling, therapy and interactive gender equality classes in schools to young boys and girls. We need to make moral and ethical education an important part of school. Our younger generation deserves better than the future we are giving them.There is no point of educating young girls when the education and independence does not ensure their safety.

Image source: IAS Rani Nagar Facebook

Liked this post?

Register at Women's Web to get our weekly mailer and never miss out on our events, contests & best reads! Or - get a couple of really cool reads on your phone every day - click here to join our Telegram channel.

Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views. Individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times. If you have a complementary or differing point of view, sign up and start sharing your views too!

Asefa writes about the lives of women in smaller towns of India. Her interest include

Learn More

How To Combine Career With Motherhood

Comments

Share your thoughts! [Be civil. No personal attacks. Longer comment policy in our footer!]

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

Do you want to be part of a network curated for working women?