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EXCLUSIVE: TERI Employees Divided Over Sexual Harassment Scandal

Employees write to TERI governing council, divided over support to RK Pachauri in the sexual harassment case.

Published
India
5 min read
RK Pachauri, head of TERI. (Photo: Reuters)

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), its top boss RK Pachauri and its governing council members have constantly been in the news.

Talking about the TERI ‘incident’, governing council member, Naina Lal Kidwai, who just concluded her thirteen-year stint as Chairman, HSBC India, told The Economic Times that there was a lot of support from female staff in Pachauri’s favour. She even said that the senior team had placed a written request on record demanding the ‘person under evaluation’ to return.



RK Pachauri, head of TERI. (Photo: PTI)
RK Pachauri, head of TERI. (Photo: PTI)

Reacting to Kidwai’s recent statement, the Pachauri sexual harassment survivor, in an exclusive conversation with The Quint, has rubbished claims of support for Pachauri.

The senior management and TERI’s Governing Council have been protecting their DG (Director General) and working as per his instructions. There were no orders for his suspension pending the inquiry. Ideally, he should have been suspended when I gave my complaint. The Council Members Mr Deepak Parekh, Naina Lal Kidwai, Hemendra Kothari, Kiran Shaw, Wakako Hironak, Shailesh Nayak, Professor Sreekantan and Henrik Madsen did not pay heed to my letter to them; no response, no acknowledgement.

Pachauri Sexual Harassment Survivor

The survivor claims that the employees of TERI were disgruntled with Pachauri’s return, so much so, that they even wrote an anonymous letter to the council in July 2015 registering their protest. The council, she claims, ignored the letter.

In the letter dated 22 July 2015, employees express “a sense of anxiety and distress, arising from the return of Dr Pachauri as Director General”.

The letter further highlights the atmosphere of “distrust and suspicion” within the organisation.

The letter states that the employees choose to remain anonymous “not because we bear malice against an individual or the organisation, but because we, like many others in TERI, are concerned about actions that may be taken against us for voicing our opinions”.

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TERI Employees’ Letter

To,
The Governing Council The Energy and Resources Institute

22 July 2015

The undersigned humbly submit to the Governing Council the following.

We, as employees of TERI, feel a sense of anxiety and distress, arising from the return of Dr Pachauri as Director General. This concern stems from the fact that due to the charges levied on Dr Pachauri, his return impacts the reputation of TERI as an organization and also questions the integrity of not only the organization but all those associated with it. Eminent public figures like Swaminathan Aiyar, Shekhar Gupta, Namita Bhandare and Ramachandra Guha have already criticised the move by Dr Pachauri to return to TERI, while the case is still ongoing. At such a time, it is imperative to not blur the lines between an institution and an individual – in this case, its head, the DG.

It also implies invalidating TERI’s own ICC report. The Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) made an unbiased evaluation and presented its findings, thereby, making the crucial distinction mentioned above. Even acknowledging the court’s permission, his return as DG (a powerful position with managerial responsibilities) has reversed the unbiased position of TERI, as an institution. While we understand that the ICC’s report is challenged in the Labour court, till this matter is conclusively settled, the perception within the organization is that upon his return he could influence the case as well as the witnesses, thereby, making this an issue of conflict of interest. The courts may have approved his right to come back and work legally, but TERI, as an institute, should decide if having Dr Pachauri as the DG is in its best interest. It now makes TERI partial to Dr Pachauri. This has implications for TERI in three ways:

1. A lack of clear and impartial process, would be detrimental to the health of the institute. This could encourage other employees to indulge in acts of harassment - regardless if the accused is found guilty or not. It also does not inspire confidence in women employees that future cases of harassment by colleagues will be dealt with firmly.

2. TERI is an organization that works on the basis of projects, many of which require a certificate of good moral character. While there is no doubt about the incredible contribution that Dr Pachauri has made in the past, allowing him to work in the capacity of DG, while the case is ongoing, affects the credibility of TERI as an institute that is dedicated to bringing changes in the environment and society in a just, democratic and impartial fashion.

3. There is an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion in the organization; employees are unsure about the consequences from voicing their opinions. Such an atmosphere has reduced the morale and confidence of the employees.

We would also like the Governing Council to note that this letter is signed anonymously, not because we bear malice against an individual or the organization, but because we, like many others in TERI, are concerned about actions that may be taken against us for voicing our opinions. To conclude, we, as employees of TERI, do not have faith in the present leadership. Keeping the organization in mind, we urge the Governing Council to consider a change in leadership immediately.

Your sincerely Concerned employees of TERI

The Quint also reached out to current and former TERI employees. One of the employees who quit TERI after Pachauri resumed work spoke under the condition of anonymity.

TERI is divided into two, one section that received him back with garlands and the younger crowd that is completely disgruntled. The people who have been there for decades are blinded by his achievements. Due credit should be given to the man for his work, but something like this cannot be forgiven.

Former Employee, TERI

He further added that it is not just a generational gap between the younger and old employees in TERI, but in fact, there have been other such instances with Pachauri. No other victim has, so far, had the guts to complain and take on the all powerful man.

It is a one-man institution. The money in TERI comes from his influence and clout. It is not easy to take on such a man. This is the first situation where he is being taken to task, but he is a repeat offender. The fact that I want to stay anonymous says enough about the clout of the man.

Former Employee, TERI

While this former employee quit soon after Pachauri resumed work in July 2015, a current senior member claims, the people of TERI have moved on from the incident:

There was a lot of tension in TERI; donors and clients were questioning us but people have gradually put this aside. It is business as usual now. Let the matter be decided in courts.

Speaking to The Quint, the former head of the Internal Complaints Committee of TERI, Ranjana Saikia, who stepped down after the incident said she would not like to speak on the issue.

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