In the wake of complaints by women presenters of All India Radio (AIR) of persistent harassment by senior executives, the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has set up a committee to investigate the allegations. But the committee’s terms of reference, and composition, has left the staffers unhappy.
Earlier in the week, the AIR Broadcasting Professionals Association (AIRBPA), submitted a complaint to the Delhi Commission for Women, accusing superiors of ‘bad behaviour’ and ‘sexist mindset.’
‘Contempt of court’
In the memorandum, a copy of which is with The Hindu, the association said AIR was in ‘contempt of court’ for never having made employees aware of the Vishaka guidelines or setting up a mechanism for complaints by female employees despite repeated requests.
It alleged that there was ‘exploitation by duty officers,’ allotment of duties at odd hours for women with inconvenient and unsafe transport facilities. Senior officials were accused of making advances and passing remarks with sexual innuendoes.
A presenter at FM Gold, who wished to remain anonymous since she was a ‘casual worker’ and feared her job may be on the line, said: “An executive came and told a colleague that the show was good and he wanted to hug her. Another told a presenter who complained that she must learn to tolerate and cooperate.” One presenter, whose complaint is attached as annexure to the memorandum, stated that a duty officer clicked her picture on the mobile, passed lewd comments, tried to recite romantic poetry to her, and constantly sought her out even when she was not interested in talking to him.
Another presenter at AIR’s Rainbow FM, which targets a younger audience, said that the organisational culture in her office was ‘rotten,’ with one programme executive in the forefront of harassing workers. “He has a problem with married women, who won’t cater to his flirtatious tendencies, who won’t respond when he asks them to come for meetings under every pretext.” The executives wield ‘enormous power’ since they can scrap duties allotted to the presenters, affecting their remuneration.
On Wednesday evening, the I&B Ministry set up a committee led by a joint secretary to look into specific allegations made by presenters at FM Gold, and look at issues of safety at workplace of women employees in the same station. The committee is to submit a report in three days.
AIRBPA office-bearers have, however, criticised the government’s move on three grounds — committee’s terms of reference, composition, and duration.
Rainbow FM too in it
An association leader, wishing to remain anonymous, said: “One, this completely excludes Rainbow FM where the issues of exploitation are as rampant. Two, it does not have any independent member of civil society or former judge. There is an obvious tendency by the government to protect its own. And in three days, they will be able to investigate nothing.”
Those who have filed the complaint also said that the decision to set up the committee had not been ‘formally’ communicated to them. “Will they even listen to us?”