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, have left the staff unhappy.
Earlier in the week, the AIR Broadcasting Professionals Association (AIRBPA), submitted a complaint to the Delhi Commission for Women, saying it could not endure the ‘bad behaviour’ and ‘sexist mindset’ of AIR officials.
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 there was ‘exploitation by duty officers,’ and allotment of duties at odd hours for women, together with inconvenient and unsafe transport facilities. Senior officials were accused of making advances to them 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 was 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 targeted a younger audience, said the organisational culture in her office was ‘rotten,’ with one programme executive notorious for 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 some pretext.”
The association said executives wielded ‘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 for 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 – the committee’s terms of reference, composition, and duration.
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.”
But Ministry officials said the concerns were not valid. “The Minister, Manish Tewari, is deeply concerned about the issue. He wants the enquiry conducted as soon as possible, and is monitoring it himself. It is being headed by a competent, upright officer with a stellar record.”
Criticise investigative committee’s composition, mandate