Most departments in JK lack internal complaint panel

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Ishtyaq Ahmad

Srinagar, Nov 23: Despite strict directives by the state government to constitute internal complaint committees to probe complaints of women harassment at workplaces, the government departments present a sorry state of affairs with most of them having yet to form the committees.
An official on anonymity pointed out that even the internal complaints committee constituted in a few departments remained only eyewash.
The (Prevention, Prohibition and (Redressal) Act, 2013, which prescribes strict punishment was enacted by the central government on December 9, 2013, and under Section 4(1) of the act, every employer is required to constitute an internal complaint committee with an aim of providing protection against harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints in a stipulated time-frame.
The act makes it mandatory for all the departments having 10 or more employees to form such a committee and an employer can be fined `50,000 for violation of the act.
However, sources said that the non-serious attitude of the departments on this issue can be gauged from the fact that majority of them have failed to act despite getting repeated reminders from the state government.
General Administration Department (GAD) issued orders several times, says that administrative heads of their respective departments shall constitute committees at the state, divisional and district levels.
Over the years, there have been number of times, when women faced harassment at work places.
But most of the time action was not been taken. “We need committees in every college, school in Jammu and Kashmir,” a woman professor teaching in one of the colleges said.
“Majority of the women are working today, but there is no security for women at workplaces in Jammu and Kashmir. The government or other rights group only advocate about rights when something untoward happens and when the incidents dies down, the voices of advocates also dampens,” said a female teacher. “If women do not feel safe and comfortable in their native land how can they be safe outside,” the teacher added.
Another female, who is working in a government department, said that there are numerous instances when she has resisted men passing lewd remarks in her career. “The institutionalized harassment is ingrained in our system and the people who are helm of affairs always took undue advantage of women. Earlier, raising voice was considered a stigma but now people are raising their voice and slowly the perception is changing,” she said.
A senior official in the government said that it had sent letters to all government departments to ensure that the committees must be in place to hear the complaints of women employees and that any lapse in this regard won’t be tolerated. (KNS)