In sister act, BJP legislator humbles minister

Battling sexual harassment

Bache Gowda’s feeble reply that the officer was allowed to continue because the Labour Department was faced with a man-power shortage made BJP MLC Vimala Gowda furious.
Narrating the story, Vimala said that in 2009, a Labour Department lady manager was sexually abused by Joint Labour Commissioner H S Uthappa. Pending an enquiry into the alleged act, Uthappa was suspended, but was reinstated within three months. This, she claimed, was against the norm since a suspended officer cannot be reinstated within six months.

What was worse, the woman officer was demoted to Group C category even though she belonged to Group B. Besides, she has not been paid salary for the last six months, Vimala alleged.

On June 24, 2009, Manager S Nirmala Kumari complained of sexual advances by Uthappa. At that time, she said she possessed a videotape of the alleged incident. While she is said to have made the video public, Uthappa has been arguing that the charges levelled against him were false and that she was trying to tarnish his image.

While suspending Uthappa, the department had announced that an in-house committee would conduct an inquiry and submit a report within 15 days.

Bache Gowda admitted that although a committee headed by Karnataka State Women Commission Member-Secretary Parvathi K Thimmaiah was probing the charges, Uthappa was reinstated since the department was facing employee shortage.

Enraged by the minister’s reply, Vimala lashed out, saying she possessed documents to establish her charges and also had a CD to show how Uthappa had used filthy language against the lady officer. “Yesterday (Sunday), I happened to watch the CD. I was aghast by the language used against the woman employee. At least give her salary”, she demanded.

Trying to defend himself, Bache Gowda said both the officers belong to the Scheduled Caste category. But he was cut short by Congress members S R Patil and Motamma, who argued that it was not wise to drag in the caste factor.

The minister shot back, arguing: “I am a Vokkaliga. What’s wrong in saying so? You mention caste while seeking reservation. But if I mention it here, how can it be wrong?”  
He also argued that the lady officer has been given a posting which was equivalent to the one she held. She has gone on leave without submitting the leave the letter in a proper format. Hence, she is not getting salary.

Intervening, Chairman Veeranna Matthikatti asked the minister whether the lady officer has been made been given grade ‘C’ posting and whether she has not been paid salary. Both the questions did not get a direct reply from the minister.

Later, the Chairman said there seems to be truth in the allegations being made by Vimala. “The government cannot give such replies. It is obvious that injustice has been meted out to the woman. You should take immediate action against the officer who is facing the charges”, he said.

Motamma, JD (S) leader Nanaiah and others too lent their voice in support of Vimala. Nanaiah demanded the transfer of Uthappa.

Displeased with the minister’s reply, Matthikatti announced he was withholding his reply and directed Bache Gowda to explain to the House what action had been taken against Uthappa.

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