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Archives for : April2017

Bastar scribe Santosh Yadav is finally out of jail, but journalism has to wait

Santosh Yadav (Mahtab Alam)

Bastar-based journalist Santosh Yadav is still under shock and wants some time before he can start doing journalism again.

“I certainly and seriously want to do journalism again, in fact, in a more professional manner than I used to do earlier, but to do that I need some time as I am yet to come to terms with what has happened with me and my family in the course of my incarceration,” said Yadav while talking to Catch.

 

 

“I still have a case to fight.”

“I will go back to journalism soon,” he added without a second thought despite the fact his family and friends are advising him to do some business or some other job.

Yadav, who is in the national capital till Saturday, was arrested by Chhattisgarh Police in September 2015 from his village Darbha. They accused him of being a Maoist supporter. He was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other laws, ranging from rioting, criminal conspiracy, murder, and criminal intimidation, to being a part of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), among other alleged offences.

He was granted bail by the Supreme Court on 26 February this year.

However, he could only come of out of jail, almost two weeks later, on 10 March because it was difficult for him to arrange surety to avail the bail.

Before him, another Bastar-based journalist, Sumaro Nag, a stringer and news-agent with Rajasthan Patrika was arrested in July 2015.

Yadav’s trial is still on in a local court of Jagdalpur and his bail petitions were rejected earlier by lower courts citing the grave nature of charges. According to his colleagues and his lawyer, he has been targeted and was arrested because of his reports, something the police strongly denies.

At the time of his arrest, 31-year-old Yadav used to report for two Hindi local dallies namely, Navbharat and Chhattisgarh.

Finally out of jail, he is immensely thankful to his journalist colleagues, human rights organisations and lawyers for their solidarity and support.

THE STORY SO FAR

In the wake of Nag and Yadav’s arrests that year, on 26 November 2015, more than 100 journalists, activists and academicians across the country petitioned to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and then Union Ministers for Home, Information & Broadcasting and Tribal Affairs, demanding immediate release of the journalists and fair investigations into their matter.

Later, similar demands were also raised by Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), all of which went unheard.

Recalling his time in jail, Yadav said, “Initially, I could not believe what I saw in jail. I used to think something like this happened only angrez ke samay mein (during colonial rule)”.

“I don’t know about other parts of India, but in Bastar, the jails are overcrowded with no basic facility.”

According to him, the prisoners, mostly under trail, are forced to live in subhuman conditions. And most of the prisoners belong to marginalised groups such as Adivasi and Dalit. He also added that most of these prisoners are innocent but they can’t afford good lawyers. Hence, they are languishing in jail.

“Is this the azaadi our forefathers fought for?” he wondered.

During his 17 months of imprisonment he was lodged in two jails of Bastar, first in Jagdalpur Central Prison and later in Kanker District Prison. “While as compared to Jagdalpur jail, Kanker’s jail’s condition is better but even that’s not good for the prisoners,” he told Catch.

“In October last year when we inmates restored to a peaceful protest to complain about the issues in the prison, we were beaten severely,” said Yadav.

He claimed that he was beaten so badly that he was unconscious for nearly six hours. Later he was lodged in solitary confinement for 11 days.

“I was also accused of hatching jail-break plans and inciting inmates. I was presented before jail mates as if I am a naxalite. Hence, I was mostly not allowed to talk to co-prisoners.”

PERILS OF THE TRADE

 

Talking about the risks involved in doing journalism in conflict-ridden zones like Bastar, Yadav said, “It is not an easy task. You are always under suspicion from all sides.”

According to him, there are multiple risks and issues involved in it, from resource crunch to lack of trust to unwillingness to publish news of vital importance due to adverse situations.

“Everyone wants to play safe,” said he.

“Though there are brave souls who are trying their best bring out the facts, risking their life and liberty.”

He echoed the Editors Guild of India’s fact-finding team’s report (of March 2016) which claimed, “Not a single journalist is working (in Bastar) without fear or pressure.”

Out on bail, Yadav has to report to a local police station on a daily basis. It is one of the reasons why he is not able to start working as a journalist yet.

“I have not been proven guilty. But it conveys a message that I have done something wrong. It is a great hindrance for me when it comes to deciding what work to take on,” he told Catch.

Even for his trip to Delhi, he had to obtain permission from a local court. In Delhi, Yadav spoke at a public meeting in Delhi University’s Political Science department, interacted with journalists and met officials of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

In the coming days, Yadav hopes, with less restrictions – like not more than a weekly report to a police station, and a steady job of a full-time reporter – he can fulfill his journalistic duties better. He is convinced that at the end of his trial he will be acquitted.

Yadav said, this case and the 17 months in prison has changed his life drastically. “I am eagerly waiting to start work again and to report about what is happening in the remote areas of Bastar.”http://www.catchnews.com/india-news/bastar-scribe-santosh-yadav-is-finally-out-of-jail-but-journalism-has-to-wait-57801.html

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India – The Bizarre Story of Aadhaar and EVMs

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India on its website has provided an answer to a question about the “system of numbering EVMs”.

It states “Each Control Unit has a unique ID Number (UID), which is painted on each unit with a permanent marker. This ID Number will be allowed to be noted by the Polling Agents and will also be recorded in a Register maintained for the purpose by the Returning Officer. The address tag attached to the Control Unit also will indicate this ID Number.”

A careful perusal of UIDAI documents reveals that it is linked to the electoral database too. A confidential document of UIDAI titled ‘Creating a unique identity number for every resident in India’, leaked by Wikileaks on November 13, 2009 reads: “One way to ensure that the unique identification (UID) number is used by all government and private agencies is by inserting it into the birth certificate of the infant. Since the birth certificate is the original identity document, it is likely that this number will then persist as the key identifier through the individual’s various life events, such as joining school, immunizations, voting etc.”

The proponents of the world’s biggest citizen identification scheme aims to converge the electoral photo identity card (EPIC) numbers of electoral database, the UID/Aadhaar number database called Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). In their myopia, political parties in particular and citizens in general have failed to fathom its ramifications for voting by electors in a democracy.

In a letter dated June 7 2011, the Director General and Mission Director of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) wrote to Chief Election Commissioner saying, “The Election Commission of India (ECI) may also like to leverage Aadhaar infrastructure in cleaning/ updating their existing electoral data base. Aadhaar numbers issued by the UIDAI can also be included in the list of valid proof of identity (POI) and proof of address (POA) documents of the Election Commission during the polls for identity verification.”

The file notings by ECI on the UIDAI’s letter reads: “How can Aadhaar number be used as proof of address”. The reply from ECI dated June 17, 2011 on the letter from UIDAI stated “Aadhaar numbers can be seeded into EPIC and electoral roll databases to clean those databases and also to bring standardisation and uniformity in the Election Commission’s databases across the country. UIDAI does provide necessary technical and financial support under its information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure scheme for integration of Aadhaar number with database of concerned Ministries/ Departments to make them UID compliant. However, the process and schemes to use Aadhaar numbers for their applications are to be defined by the concerned Departments themselves.”

The notification of January 28, 2009 that set up UIDAI, provides the terms of reference (TOR) for its work. There is no reference to the collation of UID number database with electoral database in the TOR. But the TOR does refer to “collation and correlation with UID and its partner databases.” If this reference to ‘partner database’ included the electoral database, the UID/ Aadhaar enrolment form never revealed it and took Indian residents for a ride.

UIDAI has argued, “Aadhaar database is restricted to the name, date of birth, gender, address, facial image, ten fingerprints and iris of the resident. The data fields are based on the recommendation of the Demographic and Data field Verification Committee headed by N Vittal, former chief vigilance commissioner (CVC). Since the Aadhaar database contains absolute minimum information of a resident necessary to establish identity, it is not possible to include EPIC numbers in the Aadhaar database. However, the ECI should seed Aadhaar numbers in the electoral database as clarified above.”

The Election Commission in its letter dated March 4, 2013 to UIDAI on the subject of “Seeding of Aadhaar number in Electoral Database” wrote: “Commission feels that it would be better that EPIC no. is collected at the time of enrollment for Aadhaar and put in the Aadhaar database…ECI has already issued instructions that Aadhaar cards can be used as alternative identity documents at polling station…It may be mentioned here that Ministry of Home Affairs has also agreed to print EPIC no. on smart card as issued by Registrar General of India…Under the circumstances, it is once again requested that EPIC no. may be made mandatory for enrollment in Aadhaar.”

In its letter dated 29 October 2012, the ECI had argued that “including EPIC no. as mandatory field in UIDAI database would enable better integration between UIDAI database and electoral database, which will make Aadhaar numbers more useful.” This enthusiastic endorsement of illegal UIDAI’s database and its inexplicable eagerness to merge EPIC no. and electoral database with a database that faces robust legal challenge merits rigorous scrutiny.

In a letter dated 16 April 2012, RK Singh, the then secretary, ministry of home affairs (MHA), currently MP from BJP wrote to Dr SY Quraishi, the then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), with reference to latter’s letter dated 4 April 2012 “regarding inclusion of Electoral Photo Identity Card -EPIC number in the Aadhaar database.”

It is intriguing as to how Election Commission has failed to comprehend the adverse consequences of such convergence. There is nothing in the public domain to suggest that implications of such a merger have been examined.

The then secretary, MHA informed the CEC that there is mutual agreement between the MHA’s RGI and ECI that “there is a considerable potential to synchronise the two databases and set up a unified platform for future updating of the same and sought CEC’s advice to take it forward. Does the Election Commission realize that synchronization of the two databases is happening as per the design of Wipro’s document and is beyond the mandate given to UIDAI and RGI?

It may recalled that one of the earliest documents that refer UIDAI is a 14-page long document titled ‘Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents’ prepared by Wipro Ltd for the Planning Commission envisaged the close linkage that the UIDAI’s Aadhaar would have with the electoral database. The use of electoral database mentioned in Wipro’s document remains on the agenda of the proponents of Aadhaar.

The reply of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) dated April 1. 2014 transferring the right to information (RTI) application to Election Commission seems to indicate that linkage of UIDAI with the Commission has already been established.

In such a backdrop, PMO’s reluctance to share all the file documents and correspondence relating to Nilekani and right up to his resignation appears quite sensitive and deserves scrutiny.

Nilekani referred to the current “three-member UIDAI Committee under J Satyanarayana, the former IT secretary”. Satyanarayana is currently a part time Chairman of UIDAI since September 6, 2016. He has been on the Board of NISG. Notably, Satyanarayana has been the member of the Task Force for preparation of the Policy Document on Identity and Access Management under National e-Governance Programme (NeGP).

This Task Force was constituted by Office Memorandum dated October 31, 2006, which was supposed to submit its report by December 25 2006. Coincidentally, the Processes Committee of the Planning Commission which was set up in July 2006 commissioned the task of preparing “Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents” to Wipro Ltd during the same period.

This report talked about “Citizen Identities” and “Owner of identities”. This report states, “The Identity Information is stored by multiple agencies in multiple documents like Ration card, Driving License, Passport, Voter’s card, Birth Certificate etc. The purpose of the Project unique ID (UID) initiated by the Planning Commission is to create a central database of resident information and assign a Unique Identification number to each such resident (Citizens and Persons of Indian Origin) in the country….The appropriate Identity Aggregations and Synchronization should be used to integrate systems to share their identity information.”

This April 2007 report reveals that “National UID Project: This project has been initiated, with Voter ID Numbers and BPL households in the first instance.” It is evident that long before the arrival of Nilekani in July 2009 as Chairman of UIDAI, the UID/Aadhaar project was already unfolding. He just came and claimed credit for it. This report also discloses that each registered judicial court has a unique identification (UID) number at Sub ordinate Courts, High Court and Supreme Court. This effort seems to be part of profiling and surveillance of judicial institutions.

Given the fact that some 91,000 of USA’s classified pages reached the website of Wikileaks in August 2010 reveals that claims of security and privacy are mere empty claims with no privacy law in the country.

The Ministry of Planning, the nodal ministry for UID/aadhaar informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee that concerns sharing of data, surveillance and profiling is being addressed by a proposed legislation on privacy. The committee observed that the enactment of such data protection law is a “pre-requisite for any law that deals with large-scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases.”

This promised law has not been enacted till date. Notably, till date there is no data protection and privacy protection law in the country. Thus, the claim of UIDAI and Nilekani remains a bogus claim.

Contrary to the claims of the promoters of biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar like Nandan Nilekani that “Millions of people without any ID, now have an ID”, the fact is that of all the Aadhaar numbers issued to Indian residents till date – 99.97 per cent had pre-existing identification (ID) documents.

This has been revealed in a reply to an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

The enclosed reply reveals that out of the 83.5 crore UID/Aadhaar numbers issued till then, only 2.19 lakh residents (0.03 per cent) have been given numbers based on the introduction by the introducer system because they did not have a pre-existing ID. This proves that that ‘an inability to prove identity” has not a major barrier to access benefits and subsidies.

Contrary to claims of the promoters of UID/Aadhaar about there being a cumulative saving of 50,000 crores that was being diverted from genuine beneficiaries, as per the minutes of the meeting of Committee of Secretaries (CoS) held under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary on 23 November, 2015 on the subject of “Implementation of DBT in Government Schemes”, there was an annual subsidy saving of Rs 91 crore. DBT stands for Direct Benefits Transfer. The minutes of the meeting is dated November 30, 2015.

A bizarre situation is emerging where citizens chose a government that was supposed to represent them but their government is undertaking the task of coercively biometrically authenticating whether or not those it represents are indeed those who they claim to be. It ends up breaking the sacrosanct social contract between the citizen and the State in an unprecedented act of breach of trust. The attempt to undertake convergence of all the sensitive databases of Indians and the confidence of promoters of UID Aadhaar in the irreversibility of their efforts has thrown as yet an unmet open political challenge to the opposition parties and citizens.

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How sedition charge was invoked against PU students, and then dropped to escape heat

sedition

A students running to escape detention by police on PU campus on Wednesday.(Anil Dayal/HT)

Timely dropping of the sedition charge against protesting Panjab university students at the behest of Chandigarh’s director general of police Tajender Singh Luthra and some other officials after Tuesday’s violence saved not only the police but also the Narendra Modi-led central government from possible embarrassment.

The Modi government has been accused of stifling dissent and using campuses to back the Hindutva agenda of the ruling BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. The sedition charge would have been an added embarrassment in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana and a union territory administered by the Centre.

On Tuesday, the scale of violence at PU, which is also the alma mater of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, was unprecedented. The university, where Singh was a student as well as a teacher, resembled a war zone, with broken windows, glass shards, stones and flower pots littering the campus.

The university authorities and police were seething with rage over the protest called by the students over what they termed a massive fee hike. In their complaint to the police, PU’s chief security officer Ashwani Kaul accused the students of raising slogans and waging war against the state. Accordingly, the police registered a case of sedition under section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which incidentally is the same section under which last year Delhi police had arrested the then president of the student union of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Kanhaiya Kumar, and others, sparking a major controversy.

DGP Luthra, who was in Delhi, spoke with adviser to the administrator Parimal Rai and advised SSP Eish Singhal not to rush into registering case of sedition against students. The PU authorities were approached and asked if they were sure of their complaint and wanted to register case against its students under sections “usually associated with terrorists”.

“Our whole idea was to maintain peace and not to harass anyone unnecessarily,” Luthra told HT. The police had however registered the case and the only way out was to drop the charge. “The first case diary gives us that option to drop or add a charge in the FIR,” said an official, adding that once the university authorities withdrew their charge, the police added in the case diary that sedition charges were being deleted. Accordingly, the police informed the court on Wednesday.

Read morehttp://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/how-sedition-charge-was-invoked-against-pu-students-and-then-dropped-to-escape-heat-for-police-modi/story-42L4cLJlpnZWd1GryeaEYI.html

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India – Disabled to Get More Space in Pvt Sector

New Delhi
For Big & Small Firms Right of Persons with Disabilities Act to get operational next week
Your favourite pizza joint may now have to ensure that it is accessible to everyone. From a small restaurant employing 20 persons to a private firm in an office complex, the private sector will have to ensure starting next week that it is accessible to the differently-abled, frames an equal opportunity policy for them, identifies jobs and provides facilities in the workplace.The Narendra Modi government has finalised the rules to operationalise Right of Persons with Disabilities Act next week. The social justice and empowerment ministry had been given a deadline of April 14 Ambedkar Jayanti ­ to operationalise the legislation.

“The rules have been finalised. We will issue the notification by Monday or Tuesday ,“ social justice a n d e m p owe r m e n t m i n i s t e r Thaawar Chand Gehlot told ET.

The department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (DEPwD) had finalised the rules and put them in the public domain in March. However, the biggest hitch in operationalising the Act was the definition of `establishment’ in the rules. The formulation put out in the rules said any establishment employing 50 persons or more. However, the law ministry had pointed out that the legislation passed by Parliament had made no such distinction on the numbers and the rules could not go beyond the Act and exclude any establishment under 50 persons. Gehlot confirmed that this has been addressed now.

The final formulation makes only one distinction, establishments em ploying less than 20 persons and those employing 20 persons or more, people familiar with the matter said.

While an equal opportunity policy will have to be framed by all establishments ­ private, governmentowned and ministries ­ the smaller establishments will need to main tain fewer records. A senior official said, “The processes are simpler for smaller establishments. They have to maintain fewer records and pledge not to discriminate against the differently-abled.“

For a bigger organisation employing more than 20 persons, an equal opportunity policy will spell out the jobs identified for the differentlyabled, the number of persons employed, facilities and assistive devices provided. This will be published on the website and in the annual reports.

The rules also mandate a grievance redressal mechanism. In case of discrimination or any other complaint, a differently-abled person can approach the chief commissioner or state commissioner for persons with disabilities. The complaint has to be disposed of within 60 days.

 http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/index.aspx?eid=31818&dt=20170414

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Indian startups not fully geared to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace #Vaw

NO WILL, NO WAY
Recent allegations against the founders of ScoopWhoop and TVF show Indian startups may not be fully geared to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace, report Supraja Srinivasan and Shashwati Shankar

In the debut episode of Girliyapa, a satirical web series by The Viral Fever, two women in a restaurant are outraged that they aren’t ogled at, stalked or catcalled. The YouTube video has more than 3 million views and many of the 3,000-plus comments are appreciative of the intended humour. The few viewers who dared to criticise were told to pipe down and see the hilarity.Such responses weren’t unfamiliar to women working at the Mumbai office of TVF, according to one former employee of the digital production startup. If they disapproved of an atmosphere strewn with sexist jokes and comments, they were made to feel like prudes.

“The (TVF office) being sexist pertained to a few individuals like Arunabh (Kumar, the founder). As a result of that, women were also expected to `be cool’ with what was being said and done. It was easy for men to pass off lewd statements as a joke,“ she said.

Over the past weeks, India’s startup ecosystem has been riled up in controversy post allegations of sexual harassment against Kumar and, most recently, ScoopWhoop cofounder Suparn Pandey, closely following reports of a toxic work culture laced with sexism at Uber, the world’s largest cab aggregator.

Workplace sexual harassment is no stranger to the Indian corporate system, but at startups, the problem is threefold–non-compliance and a lack of awareness and sensitization, coupled with feeble gender diversity ratios in tech-led firms.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 requires every company with more than 10 employees of either gender at any of its offices to set up a four-member internal complaints committee. It should have a woman as the presiding officer and one external member from a nonprofit, a legal firm or an organisation that works in the area of sexual harassment.

The law mandates companies to organise workshops and awareness programmes at regular intervals for sensitising employees with the provisions of the sexual harassment Act. Orientation programmes for the members of the internal committees are essential.

At startups, and even at larger companies, the legislation is followed more in the breach.

“The biggest challenge from the perspective of the law is affirmative action from companies on this matter. If they were to sensitise employees, help with skill-building for the committee, make employees aware of such a committee and the action that can be taken, then incidents can come down,“ said Vishal Kedia, director at ComplyKaro, a regulatory compliance consultancy.

A survey of more than 600 companies, including startups, conducted by ComplyKaro and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India threw up dismal awareness stats and showed a casual disregard of the sexual harassment Act. About 40% of the respondents had not conducted sensitisation programmes for all their employees and about one-third had instituted only one internal complaints committee for all their offices, instead of at each.

Such lax compliance could be devastating to businesses, particularly if the founders are accused.

THE BIG EXCUSE

The most common justifications invoked for startups not being sensitive to sexual harassment at the workplace are paucity of funds and their rush for growth.

“When it comes to growth and scale, everything is in that quadrant (of important and urgent).Then there is important but not urgent, and compliance (with the sexual harassment Act) falls in that bracket,“ said investor Zishaan Hayath, who also heads the education-tech startup Toppr. His company has an internal committee and frequently conducts townhalls and inter-department meetings to raise awareness on sexual harassment.

Venture capital investors ET spoke with said it was common for early-stage startups that have not raised at least $10 million to allocate their resources to functions other than an internal complaints committee, or a human resources or a legal department. “These aren’t the top priorities for founders when it comes to allocating resources,“ one of them said, requesting anonymity.

Experts believe the inclination of startups to comply with this important legislation falls in direct proportion with the capital they raise. “Startups have an almost 5060% churn and so the inclination to spend on creating awareness on their complaints committees and what kinds of behaviours amount to sexual harassment is very low,“ said Kedia, whose company conducts awareness and training programmes for corporate employees on sexual harassment.

A few large companies such as Flipkart have established panels and processes in accordance with the law for preventing and handling any possible instances of sexual harassment. But several companies, even global ones, are satisfied with workarounds that may have the right intent but are not necessarily compliant with the law.

A hotel aggregator with operations in India has an ethics ambassador in each of its offices in lieu of complaints committees, as well as conducts a compliance programme online every quarter that is mandatory for all its employees. This ethics ambassador, elected by employees, “is the one trusted person anyone can walk up to and discuss any kind of issue,“ said a woman staffer at the firm, declining to be identified.“If an incident is reported to the ethics ambassador, (the company has) to make sure that it gets resolved and report it to the global headquarters.“

REPUTATION AND BUSINESS RISK

Legal experts said a complaint against a founder or senior executive would deal a huge reputational blow to the company and pose the biggest challenge for startups that are already fighting to survive.

At such times, the board of directors or investors must step in to see how the issue can be resolved, along with the company’s internal committee, these experts said. The company should also be as transparent as possible with employees to prevent confusion or any hostility at the workplace.

“When the internal committee on sexual harassment recommends a decision that involves the founder or a key senior-level employee, it may be necessary to involve or consult the board or the investors. Practically speaking, it may become challenging for the HR or legal teams to implement the recommendations on their own given the severe consequences on the business and shareholderlevel commitments,“ said Vikram Shroff, head of HR laws at law firm Nishith Desai Associates.

Investors, however, believe their role can at best be advisory in such matters. “Usually, the investors play the role of helping startups comply (with laws), so they keep reminding them on completion of compliance-related tasks. It’s great to have those reminders, but honestly it is startups who have to get the compliance done,“ argued Hayath.

Once a sexual harassment incident becomes public, it is important for startup founders to deal with the matter maturely and cooperate with any investigation against the accused. TVF’s response to the allegations against Kumar, by a former employee in an anonymous blog, received a lot of backlash for being insensitive towards the victim.Soon, more women came forward in support of the anonymous blogger, sharing their own experiences of harassment by Kumar.

“It was only after girls started coming out on social media post the anonymous blog that I had the courage to also speak out about an uncomfortable experience with Arunabh where I felt I was inappropriately touched by him,“ said a woman who had brief interactions with Kumar.

ComplyKaro, which works with BookMyShow and ClearTrip, said it has seen a 57% increase in queries from startups on setting up internal committees or training employees in this matter since the TVF incident.

“I am sure that the recent harassment allegations would also lead to a relook by startups at their HR policies and practices. Given that one of the complaints was made on social media, employers may prefer to adopt stringent social media usage policy by employees,“ said Shroff.

POTENTIAL FIX: GENDER DIVERSITY

Sensitisation to gender, experts said, is essential to promoting a healthy work culture. And ensuring that a workplace is genderdiverse may be a good step to begin with, believe employees at some internet companies.

“41% of the workforce at Zomato are women and we have seven women in top management roles.I have not heard of or witnessed any unpleasant or sexually offensive cases,“ said a female employee at the restaurant listings and food-delivery company.She had joined Zomato after her former boss at a cement-to-retail conglomerate made sexual advances at her. A lack of resolution of the incident had compelled her to quit.

But even at Zomato, which has raised about $220 million from investors, employees ET spoke with said they were not aware of any workshops conducted to sensitise employees on sexual harassment for at least a year. Zomato declined to respond to queries sent by ET.

At ScoopWhoop, though, gender diversity may not have proved an effective deterrent.

The media website has a dedicated news section called `Women’ carrying headlines such as `Iceland is making it illegal to pay men more than women. World, are you listening?’ and `The story of the rape that resulted in the formation of India’s sexual harassment law’–a reference to the Vishaka Guidelines that were superseded by the Sexual Harassment Act of 2013.

In a statement issued after a former employee filed a complaint with the police against cofounder Pandey, ScoopWhoop said that women comprise about 40% of its workforce and the company has equal representation at the senior leadership level. It also said that the former employee’s complaint had been forwarded to its internal complaints committee and that the company “strongly condemns any kind of harassment at the workplace.“

TVF, too, had said in response to the allegations against founder Kumar that it had an internal committee to handle sexual harassment cases.

However, employees of ScoopWhoop and TVF whom ET spoke with said they were unaware of the existence of an internal complaints committee.

ScoopWhoop has so far raised more than $5 million from investors. TVF raised $10 million from Tiger Global Management in February last year.

SAVING GRACE

A few startups do exist that take the issue of sexual harassment very seriously, capital or no capital.

“There is a very strong culture (at BankBazaar) in terms of awareness of sexual harassment redressal mechanisms and there are extensive sessions on educating employees about the various members in the (internal complaints) committee and how a complaint can be raised if any,“ said a female employee at financial marketplace.Awareness and training sessions are conducted every six months for all employees, she said.

BankBazaar’s internal committee received a complaint last year but it found that the case related to a breach of professional etiquette and not sexual harassment. The erring employee was issued a formal warning on the instructions of the committee. “We collected feedback from the complainant that the case was handled to their satisfaction and ensured that there were no other facets of the matter that were affecting them,“ said Sriram Vaidhyanathan, chief HR officer, BankBazaar.

Online furniture startup Pepperfry conducts regular meetings and workshops in addition to circulating training material among employees to familiarise them with the sexual harassment Act and the redressal process for any complaint. “We also require new folks joining the organisation to go through an e-training on the Act and our expectations of each employee,“ said founder Ambareesh Murty.

At UpGrad, a woman came forward with a complaint after the educationtech startup, following news of the TVF case, sent an internal email on the company’s non-tolerance to sexual harassment. UpGrad’s internal “committee spoke with both the complainant and the respondent. Further verification with two other employees who faced similar incidents proved that the accused was indeed guilty and he was asked to leave immediately,“ said a female employee at the company..

http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31818&articlexml=NO-WILL-NO-WAY-14042017018015

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