Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Pachauri’s TERI: Not a Safe Place for Women

Men who try to get women into bed via premature, extravagant professions of love aren’t uncommon. But only bosses who view female employees as their personal harem try this within days of a woman joining an organization.

Pachauri_headlines_EconomicTimes

headlines from India’s Economic Times

In early 2009, scandal enveloped one of India’s most celebrated companies. Satyam Computer Services reportedly had 185 Fortune 500 firms on its client roster when its chairman confessed he’d been cooking the books. More than $1 billion in company assets, he admitted, didn’t actually exist.

Satyam (which ironically means ‘truth’ in Sanskrit) was swiftly stripped of an Excellence in Corporate Governance award. Indian authorities charged several of its officials with fraud-related offences. And Satyam’s Chief Financial Officer, as well as its external auditors, were subsequently found guilty of professional misconduct.

None of this had anything to do with climate change, yet Rajendra Pachauri – who was then serving as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – wrote about it on his personal blog. The Satyam scandal had “shaken the confidence of the public,” he declared. At a time when environmental challenges demand an elevated sense of “responsibility and ethics” on the part of business leaders, “unethical acts by top management” were apparently widespread.

Didn’t people in positions of power understand the importance of setting high standards and leading by example, he asked. Was “human society losing its ethical and moral moorings”? It seemed India’s youth were in such desperate need of moral leadership, he himself was “seriously considering the launch of a global movement called Forum for Revival of Ethics & Ecosystems.”

Six years, one month, and six days later Pachauri’s lawyer secured an ex parte court order preventing Indian news outlets from publishing allegations against him. The publication ban was lifted the following day, and the expert-in-cyber-crime lawyer who secured it for him quickly withdrew from the case, declining to comment on his reasons.

Next week, a New Delhi court will reconvene to consider whether Pachauri should be taken into police custody. A 29-year-old female employee at The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) that Pachauri has led for three decades alleges that he persistently groped and forcibly kissed her, despite her clear requests that he stop.

A second woman, who worked at TERI a decade ago, has corroborated this alleged pattern of behaviour. She says Pachauri routinely attempted to kiss, hug, and hold hands with female employees, that he extended invitations “for wine and dinner,” contacted them on their personal mobile phones after hours, assigned them nicknames, and lifted them off the ground in the workplace as though they were children.

A third former female employee has told Legally India:

Pachauri shamelessly chased young girls in the office. He even jeopardized the careers of those who would not respond. Many had no option but to tearfully quit. It was high time someone found the courage to complain to the police and let the law take its course. I know his style. What the girl said in her complaint rings absolutely true.

Remarks by a fourth woman highlight an apparent generational shift: today’s young women are less likely to tolerate behaviour their mothers may have lacked the courage to protest. As the Legally India article explains:

Yet another former employee said she was shocked that the women in the top management of TERI had not raised a voice against him all these years though they knew what was happening. “Even now, they are not standing up to say the truth,” she lamented.

Rather than displaying sterling moral leadership, it increasingly appears that Pachauri has himself indulged in “unethical acts by top management.” His alleged, decades-long behaviour has “shaken the confidence of the public” in both TERI and the IPCC – the UN body whose reputation has been inextricably linked to his for the past 13 years.

Even though Pachauri’s IPCC resignation letter last month told us that saving the planet is his “mission” and his “religion,” it appears he gave little thought to how his conduct might discredit that cause. The man who was so adamant – in the context of the Satyam scandal – that corporate leaders should set a good example appears to have fallen wretchedly short of this himself.

The 29-year-old complainant has submitted to the police numerous emails and text messages. Pachauri has denied writing them, insisting that his electronic devices were hacked over a 16-month period. His version of events is that these messages (including two-hour, late-night electronic chat sessions) were forged by “unknown cyber criminals” attempting to harm him due to his climate activities.

Messages contained in a police document have been formatted into a 24-page PDF available here. In advance of Pachauri’s court date next week, it’s worth taking another look at them.

The complainant reportedly began working at TERI at the beginning of September 2013. At lines 161-162 of the PDF, Pachauri – who is married with grown children – says he was “a complete stranger” to her before she applied for the job. Nevertheless, by September 8th, he’d already sent her three text messages referring to her as “My LIFE.” By the 7th, he was asking:

Will ever your love bring me safely into my real home – your warm heart!

Men who try to get women into bed via premature, flamboyant professions of love aren’t uncommon. But only bosses who view female employees as their personal harem try this within days of a woman joining an organization.

By September 17th, the alleged messages show the complainant telling Pachauri that his advances were embarrassing and overwhelming her (line 23). Six days later, she received the first of several love poems reproduced in the police document.

Its author refers to her as “my queen” and declares he’s never been so inspired to “give a girl joy and love.” Should she spurn his desire to “love her in earnest for many years,” says the poet, “I pledge to the heavens above that no girl shall I love any more” (lines 42, 39, 41, 45, 49).

Eight days after that, it becomes painfully clear that the complainant’s feelings are irrelevant. Rather than taking the hint and going home to his wife, in a text message sent at 9:23 pm, the writer turns petulant:

I never thought I was so repulsive to you, and never in the past few days have I thought that you wouldn’t believe me when I tell you that I love you! [lines 54-55]

The complainant’s response, sent five minutes later, seems entirely reasonable:

I never said you were so repulsive…As a woman and a 21st century woman [I] deserve the right to say that you kindly shouldn’t try…[to] hold me close or kiss me. [lines58-60]

How does her tormenter, who is more than four decades older than her, respond? He insists he’s the aggrieved party:

OK, but please don’t say I don’t love you. That hurts very much, particularly when I have bared my heart to you… [bold added, lines 63-64]

When she tells him, yet again, that his behaviour is demoralizing (lines 71-72), he still refuses to back off. Instead, he announces that he’s going to start fasting and will only commence eating “when you tell me that you believe I love you” (lines 81).

She will complain that she feels “violated.” She will beseech him: “Please, you are not to grab me and or kiss me” (lines 88-89). She will try to explain:

If you have the hots for someone you do. It doesnt mean you love them. Love is different…I cannot love everyone. [lines 281-283]

I am not obligated to show you love as a woman would to her man. Please you have to stop expecting it and making me feel guilty… [lines 315-316]

I am sorry but…what you are asking me for is totally between a couple…I am not obligated to sit and hold your hand, is that why you had me come over? [lines 383-387]

During an electronic chat session dated December 27, 2013 that was initiated by Pachauri at 9:50 pm, the exasperated complainant will ask:

How hard is it to explain to you sir that I cannot give you love like a woman would to her man. [lines 458-459]

The following February she will once again remind him that he shouldn’t mistake pleasantness on her part for love (line 605). In June, a week after he has allegedly passed her a lewd, handwritten note (lines 622-624) scrawled on a Finnair napkin, she will ask, during yet another late night chat session:

Do you ever actually understand what someone feels when someone resists something and you continue doing it? [lines 627-628]

Did you even think once before ringing me to say you need some warmth from me?? [lines 649-650]

You behave in a certain way with me and you know i dont agree with that and yet you do it [lines 652-653]

Now let’s fast forward to November, 2014. For 15 months this young woman has been employed at TERI. For 15 months she has displayed the patience of a saint – telling her boss over and over again that he is not to grope her.

Pachauri is scheduled to fly to Norway, where he’ll deliver a talk to an Oslo Rotary Club on November 12th and will speak at a Zero Emission conference the following day.

The complainant says she was supposed to accompany him to Oslo, but after she asked to switch to economy class on the plane rather than sit beside him in business class, he became angry and departed without her. In an e-mail to Pachauri, she writes:

My act was a request for God’s sake after you have insulted me and made me feel like my role was only to sit down for dinners and breakfast with you. I never iterated any problem with not going to Norway with you as it is all work. You canned it, not me. How am I to react then? I just couldn’t believe it. I was all prepared to go. [lines 768-772]

The police document contains a December 6th e-mail allegedly written by Pachauri that tells this woman she has, as a result of the above events, effectively lost her job:

you should reflect on the massive insult you heaped on me by indicating that I was so toxic that you would prefer not to sit next to me on the plane. If that be the case there is no room for any interaction between us…You are welcome to remain a paid guest of TERI. I really would not burden you with any work in future. [lines 753-761]

At a moment in history in which Indian women are working hard to take their rightful place as equals in society, it appears the ostentatiously green and sustainable TERI was not a safe haven.

The portrait that emerges from these messages – supplemented by the statements of other female employees – isn’t one of moral leadership and ethical behaviour. It is the portrait of a serial abuser who cared not the slightest that he was inflicting psychological trauma, stunting careers, and damaging ruining lives.

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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.

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