Mumbai: MIAL fires woman who complained of sexual harassment

And promotes the man she accused, saying her complaint was false and malicious; with no income for 3 months, the woman has decided to leave town

A Mumbai airport employee hit rock bottom after she was fired for complaining about mental and sexual harassment from her boss, while her tormentor continues to fly high with a plum promotion. This, despite the fact that the police filed a chargesheet against the man and the court is.

Also Read: Mumbai airport harassment case: Woman's tormentor gets bail

Even with a harassment chargesheet against him, Lalsingh Bhandari was promoted from senior security manager to assistant general manager at Mumbai airport. File pic
Even with a harassment chargesheet against him, Lalsingh Bhandari was promoted from senior security manager to assistant general manager at Mumbai airport. File pic

Deja vu
The case bears a strong similarity to the high-profile sexual harassment case against RK Pachauri, the former chief of The Energy Research Institute (TERI) in New Delhi. The entire nation was horror-struck when the institute retained him as the executive vice-chairman last month, even though an internal committee at TERI had found him guilty of harassment. The complainant, on the other hand, resigned from her post after she found little support from the organisation.

A month later, the same scene seems to be playing out at Mumbai airport, run by MIAL-GVK. This paper had reported last year that a 32-year-old woman security officer had filed a harassment complaint against her boss -- senior security manager Lalsingh Bhandari. Following her allegations, witnesses complained of mental torture, while MIAL asked the victim to stop reporting to work. She got the job back after mid-day’s report, but her alleged tormentor continued as her boss.

Read Story: Harassed Mumbai airport staffer gets job back, but accused still her boss

This reporter has now learnt that not only has Bhandari been promoted to assistant general manager (AGM), but the survivor was fired from her job just days after the cops filed the chargesheet in the case.

The Sahar police filed charges against Bhandari on December 8, and on December 15, the woman was removed from her job. The woman, who is the daughter of a retired army man, has had no income for the last three months and now has no choice but to return to home to Kolkata in the coming week.

Speaking to mid-day, the woman said, “On December 15, when I reached my office, my entry card was taken away and they asked me not to return again. They gave me a 73-page inquiry report, which stated that my complaint was false and malicious and had been filed deliberately. The letter said they had terminated me from service. I was shocked that I had been sacked without any notice.”

“I am paying the price for standing up to what is wrong. I was a victim of sexual harassment and filed a case against the culprit who harassed me for over a year. Even after my complaint, no action was taken and now I have been removed from my job,” she said.

According to the company policy, she has to revert to them within 90 days, which end today. She said she had written to them several times, and the commission for women, as well as the MAJLIS Legal Centre for Women, tried to assist her, to no avail.

“I have been running from pillar to post for the last three months, just to get my job back. I have run out of money. I am alone in the city with no help. I had lot of expectations, had big dreams when I came to Mumbai.
Now, I have no option but to leave the city go back to Kolkata,” she added.

But even moving to another city will not discourage her from fighting for justice, she declared. “Even though I am leaving the city, I will pursue the case and fight till the very end. I still have hope,” she said, but added dejectedly, “In the middle of the inquiry, the accused was promoted as AGM. Where is the justice?”

Cop speak
A police officer from Sahar police station said, “Based on the evidence, the woman’s statement and statements from witnesses have been filed in the chargesheet against the accused, Bhandari. The case will come up for hearing soon.”

—Input by Neha LM Tripathi

The other side
A spokesperson of Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) said, “MIAL, as a responsible employer, is committed to provide a secure work environment for women. A complaint was received by the Internal Complaints Committee formed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. A detailed inquiry was conducted by the committee and it was found to be false and malicious and in complete disregard to the effect that the complaint could have had on the respondent’s reputation and livelihood. Accordingly, action was taken against the complainant which is as per the Act read with the rules. Company will abstain from disseminating any information as the entire inquiry proceeding is confidential under the Act. Company cannot comment on the police enquiry since it is an independent process.”

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