AI harassment row: Prabhu asks CMD to address issue

The air hostess, who is a single mother and has put in 33 years in the airline, shot off a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu last Friday and posted it on Twitter on Tuesday. Reuters file pic for representation only

Air India has now landed in a controversy over a sexual harassment complaint against a senior official with an air hostess complaining that her complaint against him was not dealt with seriously for the past nine months and the offender is being rewarded.

The air hostess, who is a single mother and has put in 33 years in the airline, shot off a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu last Friday and posted it on Twitter on Tuesday, claiming that the senior executive has "sexually harassed, tortured me and discriminated against me" in the past six years.

She described the official as a "predator" who is "equal to if not worse than Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby". Hollywood producer Weinstein and stand-up comedian Cosby face sexual harassment cases at present following the #MeToo movement.

Following the Twitter post, Prabhu instructed Air India Chairman and Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola to "immediately address this issue".

As the victim has complained about the internal committee that dealt with her case, Prabhu also tweeted, "If necessary, will appoint another committee."

The complaint states: "(he) sexually propositioned me, abused me, used abusive language on other women in my presence, spoke about sexual acts with me and other women in my presence in the office premises."

While stating that there are numerous witnesses to her claims, the air hostess also accused the official of trying to "compel women in his office" to accompany him to bars and many of them "have been forced to do so".

"He has insulted me and denied me positions and privileges after I rejected his advances and he has made my life a misery at work and continues to do so," she claimed.

In September, she complained to the airline as well as the then CMD but nothing happened and the supporters of the accused instead spread canards against her that she was being used by someone to target him.

As there was no action, she approached the ministry which instructed the airline to ask its women's sexual harassment committee to hear the case.

However, she alleged that the head of the committee sought to defend the official saying, "Oh, you may know how he talks. He has even flirted with me like this so many times."

Accusing the committee of a cover-up and holding a "kangaroo enquiry", she claimed that the committee summoned him after three months after filing the complaint and never gave her a chance to cross-examine him though she volunteered to be cross-examined by him. The committee also did not inform her when witnesses were called.

"My faith in the system has been brutally shaken that a woman who complains of her long-term sexual harassment and intimidation by a senior male executive does not get any protection in law, nor is a fair, unbiased enquiry provided to her," she said.

"As a loyal employee of 33+ years, I have tried to follow the processes internally, but I have lost all hope that the AI bosses club will dispense any woman justice," she added.

She demanded a neutral committee and to ensure that the official does not assume charge where is in contact with and in control of more than 200 women, including her.

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AI harassment row: Prabhu asks CMD to address issue

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