56 women housekeeping staffers at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Hyderabad are staring at a bleak future, after the institute fired them and asked for new replacements to be sent by the agency they belong to. This comes after the women complained about sexual harassment by one of the employees. While the accused- D Srinivas Reddy, continues to work in the campus, the women have been thrown out unceremoniously, despite some of them working in the campus for nearly a decade.
According to a report in the News Minute, it all started in October last year, when the supervisor of the housekeeping staff lodged a case against D Srinivas Reddy, a stenographer with the institution, for sexually harassing housekeeping employees.
“Srinivas used to sexually harass women employees who would attend to his cabin. He would hold the women staff by their hips, click their photographs without consent, and invite them home to sleep with him,” said Ratna Kumari, the supervisor, adding, “he became so open about his acts that he would directly come to me and ask me to send young and pretty women to his cabin. When I told him that none of the women wanted to work with him, he said that I have a good figure and asked me to sleep with him.”
According to the staff, Srinivas allegedly abused the women using sexual expletives, used sexual connotations while speaking to them, and asked the women to sleep with him claiming his wife wasn’t home.
“This went on for a year during which two-three women staffers quit their jobs, unable to bear the harassment. When we finally decided to file a harassment case against Srinivas, he started threatening our contractor to restrain us from filing the complaint,” Ratna reportedly told the News Minute.
These employees in NIFT Hyderabad were sent by an agency named Murali Manpower Agency. Murali, the owner of the agency said that he had received a call by Srinivasan nearly seven months ago, asking him to fire Ratana Kumari from the job. He said, “the next day I went to the campus and talked to the staff about this. The employees told me that Srinivas had sexually harassed them. I offered Kumari a second job, but she said that she will not leave the job because she has not done anything wrong."
As per the report in News Minute, the women had complained about this matter to the campus administration first. When no response was received from them, they decided to file a complaint with the police. Without any help from the authorities, women had lodged an FIR in Madhopur police station in October 2018. After the case was registered with the police, it was then that Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of NIFT Hyderabad contacted the women.
Ratna Kumari has said that a team from Delhi had come to investigate this matter. They talked to the whole staff and finally talked to the women. An official- in his personal capacity- had told Ratana that he thought it was a matter of sexual harassment. “He told that the report of this case has been sent to the Hyderabad Campus officials. But seven months later, the officials of Hyderabad are saying that no harassment has happened, and Srinivas is still roaming freely in campus," she added.
On the other hand, Hyderabad officials say that the matter was seen by Delhi officials and they have no information regarding this.
Seven months later, not only has the case against Srinivas been closed, but the authorities have also removed 56 women employees from work. Srinivas is still roaming freely in the campus. When this case was closed, women protested against Srinivas demanding his removal from the campus but the next day they were fired from the job citing new rules.
According to Murali, on June 9, 2019, a notice was sent to his agency which contained a new rule which stated, "The agency should remove the employees and appoint new employees."
Murali told the News Minute, "I will have to do what the administration says. Now I will have to fire all the employees and hire new employees. "
After the case has been shut, the police have said, “it is true that a lawsuit was filed in October, but it was baseless and now the case is closed."
This case of NIFT Hyderabad is another example of how persecution of women is being done by using force and position and many of the accused are also successful in getting out of it scot free.
Ratna Kumari says that she has been fired from the job but she will continue to show till Shrinivas is removed from the campus. Kumari said, “the one who harassed us is roaming free and the officers are rescuing him, and he (the director and faculty) continue to give us threats. He says that if we compromise, we will get back our jobs, but we do not have to compromise. NIFT’s director is a woman, will she also not help in bringing us justice?"