India Inc. Gets Firm Message On Sexual Harassment From The Government

Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi.

New Delhi:

The Union government today issued a stern warning to India Inc - comply with the law on preventing sexual harassment at the workplace or face a fine of Rs 50,000, and the risk cancellation of license and registration.

Even though the law was implemented over a year ago, the government says a majority of the private sector has still not set up internal complaint committees to tackle the growing problems of sexual harassment. "Beyond a certain time, we will start taking action against them. They have to send us a compliance report every month. So its something we are taking very seriously," said Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi.

Government data shows that there were over 300 complaints of sexual harassment last year; the figure has steadily climbed over the last few years from 107 cases in 2011, 147 in 2012 and 249 in 2013.

The private sector has supported the government's initiative but insists many firms already have put in place mechanisms to handle complaints. D S Rawat, Secretary General of industry body ASSOCHAM, told NDTV, "I think 60 per cent of the private sector has already implemented it. I welcome government's emphasis on follow up but I don't think it's possible to send a compliance report every month because if we have sent a report once with details, it's not feasible to send one every month unless there is something new to add to it."


And it's not just the private sector. Even though, under the Union government, except for 28 departments, others have internal committees in place. But letters sent out seven months ago by the ministry have still not got a single reply from states governments which is why the minister herself will take it up with chief ministers.

Despite the public outcry on some of the most recent cases involving sexual harassment, the response has raised questions on the seriousness of companies and the government to tackle the problem.