Friday, January 12, 2007

A Letter changes the Vision of Indian Railway

Akhil Chandra Sen's letter to the Railway Department:

"I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with 'lotah' in one hand and 'dhoti' in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station.

This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report! to papers."

Akhil Chandra Sen wrote this letter to the Sahibganj divisional railway
office in 1909. It is on display at the Railway Museum in New Delhi.
It was also reproduced under the caption "Travelers' Tales" in the Far Eastern Economic Review.

You must be wondering about the significance of such trivial is one of the motivating factors to introduce toilets in Indian Trains.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sexual Harassment with Martyr's Wife: Reflecting Our Work Culture

Two war widows from Punjab petitioned the National Commission for Women for help against sexual harassment by their superior, Sainik Welfare Board (SWB) chief Brig (retd) JS Jaswal who, in Chandigarh, denied the charge.

Anti-Terrorist Front chairman MS Bitta accompanied 38-year-old Raj Kaur, widow of hawaldar Gurmail Singh, a sena medal winner who died in Operation Rhino in Assam, and Margaret Gill when they submitted a memorandum to NCW chairperson Girija Vyas alleging that Jaswal sexually harassed them continually at their offices in Chandigarh and Bhatinda, punishing them with adverse career reports and blocking their discretionary benefits for rebuffing him.

Vyas said that the NCW had received a copy of the complaint a week back and has asked for an action taken report. But there has been no reply from the SWB so far. "If necessary, we will send a team for an inquiry," she said.

She wondered whether the Supreme Court mandated cell to receive complaints against sexual harassment at workplace was inactive or had not been set up at the SWB. "We are looking into the whole matter," she said.

In their memorandum, Bitta, Gill and Raj Kaur alleged that the directorate and the Sainik rest houses have become "dens of moral turpitude" and demanded a CBI probe into the matter and punishment of the culprits, including Jaswal's personal assistant. Bitta also intends to take the two women to meet Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the wife of Army chief JJ Singh.

Speaking to reporters, Raj Kaur, a clerk with the Board, said she even thought of committing suicide alongwith her two children when her complaints to the local police and other officials came to naught.

"We have come to the NCW with a heavy heart and a lot of hope," said Raj Kaur and Gill, another fourth class employee who alleged she was harassed even after getting herself transferred to Bhatinda.

Gill's daughter Seema, on her part, urged other victims of harassment to step forward with their complaints to clean up the system.

After Gill went public with her charge at a press conference at Chandigarh on January 2, Jaswal dismissed the allegation with a counter charge that the women accusing him of misbehaviour were not above board. The retired Army officer, who is already facing an inquiry by the Chandigarh police, on Monday once again denied the charges.

Jaswal denied meeting Gill who was not even in the direct chain of command under him and was suspended. "She is implicated in a case of forgery and has been suspended by the department three or four times," he said. "An inquiry, conducted against Raj Kaur by the SC/ST Commission on allegations that she used racist abuses against my PA, had found her guilty. She was never directly working under me. I have never made any sexual advances towards her and these allegations have been levelled to scuttle departmental action after the commission's report," he said. And Bitta's move, he alleged, was prompted by electoral considerations.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Doctors, nurses face sexual harassment at work place

Women doctors and nurses are victims of sexual harassment at the workplace and not many of them are ready to come out openly against it.

This fact has been brought out by a recent study in which several doctors and nurses, including senior staff members, revealed that sexual harassment in hospitals is quite common.

The study was conducted in Kolkata, West Bengal, with 135 in-depth interviews of women employees in two government and two private hospitals over a period of 11 months.

'Power imbalances characterised many of the incidents of sexual harassment as the perpetrators were frequently persons in authority and victims were often those in a relatively subordinate position,' said Paramita Chaudhuri, who conducted the study on behalf of an international NGO called Population Council.

'The doctors and administrators in positions of authority harassed other doctors, nurses and other non-medical lower level staff. Even patients are seen to be in positions of authority because their complaint could lead to dismissal,' she added.

The study 'Sexual harassment in work place - experiences of women in the health sector' says victims were sexually harassed by not only their co-workers but also by patients and their relatives.

'Women will study and enter various professions and then men will behave in this manner. We have accepted this is how things will continue,' a 30-year-old government doctor said when interviewed for the study.

Sharing her personal experience, a 35-year-old nurse in a government hospital said: 'Saying bad things when they see a woman is natural. It doesn't matter if the man is a doctor or a non-medical staffer.'

The study also found that in a large number of cases the victims were reluctant to go public on this issue.

Of the 135 women interviewed, 77 admitted sexual harassment but 50 did not complain. Of the 45 doctors interviewed 24 had been harassed; of the 50 nurses, 31 were victims of sexual harassment.

'Many fear they will be blamed for provoking sexual harassment. Others fear loss of reputation after complaining. So the culture of silence and denial continues,' the study said.

Shockingly, the biggest perpetrators of abuse were patients and their families followed by doctors and non-medical staff.

'Nurses are the only group harassed by everyone - doctors, non-medical staff, patients and their relatives and outsiders,' a 29-year-old doctor in a private hospital admitted.

According to the study, just 20 of the 135 women interviewed were aware of the Supreme Court guidelines on sexual harassment and none had heard of a complaints committee for redressal of their grievances.