Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Additional women are stepping forward with tales of inappropriate behaviour on the part of Rajendra Pachauri, who has chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2002.
An Indian newspaper, The Hindu, has a headline today that reads: Another ex-TERI staff speaks up against Pachauri. Rajendra Pachauri has led The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) for the past 34 years. For the past 13, he has also been chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Yesterday, the IPCC announced that Pachauri won’t be attending an upcoming meeting in Nairobi “because of issues demanding his attention in India.”
What began as a police complaint by a single female subordinate now appears to be snowballing. A second woman alleges that she was similarly harassed by Pachauri while employed by TERI a decade ago. In a letter read out by the first complainant’s lawyer at a press conference, Pachauri’s new accuser says:
A sexual harasser ten years back and a sexual harasser now. He did it to me ten years back and he has done it to her now. I and many other female colleagues who have worked at the same work place as the woman have at some point in their life faced sexual harassment at the hands of this man.
The Hindu says police plan to interview the woman.
Meanwhile, a story in the Calcutta-based Telegraph suggests that Pachauri has long treated female staff members “like little girls” by lifting them off the ground as one might do with toddlers in North America. Based on the above two women’s accounts, plus “interviews with two long-term [TERI] employees,” the article implies that physical contact and sexual innuendo have long been part of Pachauri’s modus operandi.
Vrinda Grover, a New Delhi-based lawyer who specializes in women’s issues, told The Telegraph that others have contacted her with similar tales: “I know of at least three such cases, and the pattern is the same in every case.”
According to the above media reports, Pachauri’s sexually-laden behaviour is “common knowledge” at TERI. The police complaint by the 29-year-old woman apparently:
also refers to alleged incidents that happened on the rooftop garden of the Teri office where, she said, Pachauri “lifted female employees as if they were little girls. Some would run away seeing him approach them.”
The Telegraph tells us that, according to another “former employee who did not want to be named,” it is normal for female staffers to
get calls on their personal mobile numbers [from Pachauri], enquiries on their personal lives, invitations for wine and dinners, handholding and kisses.
Pachauri is also allegedly in the habit of assigning female employees nicknames which he then uses to address them rather than their proper, formal names.
Sanjeev Sabhlok, a Melbourne-based economist and Indian political activist, advised me by e-mail yesterday that while the lives of educated Indian women have improved dramatically in recent years:
it remains a brave decision for the [29-year-old complainant] to go public and I commend her commitment to hold people in high places to account. It is time for Indian women to stand up for themselves and fight the (chronic) sexual harassment they face at work.
He says the kind of behaviour of which Pachauri stands accused is not unusual amongst high-ranking Indian males, and that:
It is time for change in India. Women’s freedom, dignity and rights matter. They are individuals and can’t any longer be treated as chattel by men in powerful places. I hope other Indian women will come out in support for this women [sic] – who has dared to take on one of India’s most powerful men.
Similar remarks appear on Sabhlok’s blog here.
Donna Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist and author of the 2013 book, Into the Dustbin: Rajendra Pachauri, the Climate Report & the Nobel Peace Prize. See Amazon.com, Amazon India, and other Amazon stores.