A senior Air India official has accused a director in the national carrier of sexual harassment with the complaint being sent to the ministry of civil aviation.
The incident comes against the backdrop of several instances of women being sexually abused at work by their seniors that have sparked outrage in India. The woman says in the complaint that her boss asked her to go to rooms of VIPs alone with gifts and “blew his top” if she didn’t comply.
Being a single woman, she couldn’t afford to “wine and dine” him and he never harassed those who did, she wrote.
Last year, a 29-year-old woman who worked as a research analyst at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) – a non-profit- lodged a complaint against its then chairman RK Pachauri for alleged criminal intimidation and sexual harassment. He was forced to step down and is out on bail.
“A high-level committee will be probing the case as a very senior female official has levelled allegations against a director-level official, which is second highest post in Air India,” a senior official with the airline told Mail Today. The woman complained to Air India’s chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani on July 25 and he forwarded it to the ministry.
“On 8th Sept 2012, when first Dreamliner aircraft came, he shouted at me, in public for his not being able to enter the secure airport area,” she said in the complaint, arguing that his behaviour fits the definition of sexual harassment under law. “Often he would call up to ask me to facilitate travel of his niece and family to Singapore and ask me to also inform the Singapore office.”
Lohani declined to comment on the issue.
Sources say he wrote to the official facing allegations on July 27, seeking a reply on the complaint.
The four-page response that came on August 1 rejected the charges, calling them “frivolous”.
The complainant has claimed that in the Annual Performance Appraisal for 2013-14, she was downgraded by the officer in question, creating hurdles in her promotion, and that his behaviour towards her was “rude and aggressive”. She has also said that the director didn’t appreciate her work and termed her “populist”.
The woman has said the officer called her and harassed her in the presence of other male staff. The director in his reply to the department termed the allegations “distorted and malicious” with an attempt to malign his reputation.
“She wrote in her complaint that I sexually harassed her but didn’t mention even a single incident where I harassed her sexually,” he told Mail Today, quoting his response.
The director also made counter allegations, stating that the complainant once “managed” a sexual harassment report filed by a female employee against a senior Air India official.
“Her responses to the issues were erratic, without proper study and application of mind and it is correct that I did indeed counsel her on several occasions to be professional in her approach and work without fear or favour and avoid populistic responses and keep the best interest of the organisation in mind,” the director stated in his reply.
“The counseling was always carried out without rudeness, in a manner of a senior guiding a junior which is an inherent part of an administrative and managerial function and it is unfortunate that this is being distorted as harassment.”