‘Haven’t received order through proper channel,’ say top officials, while the complainant suffers reprisals, is dismissed from key post and sent to sub-district hospital
Srinagar: Two weeks after a senior female consultant accused the Director Health Services Kashmir of sexual harassment and vindictiveness, the inquiry ordered by the J&K government is yet to begin. Top officials of the health department say that they have not received any communication through “the proper official channel” in this regard.
A senior female consultant MCH (name withheld) had filed serious complaints of sexual harassment and personal vindictiveness against Director Health Services Kashmir, Dr Samir Mattoo, in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and had sought a high-level inquiry as well as the removal of the director from his post.
Following the complaint, the Lieutenant Governor’s Secretariat Office wrote to Chief Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir, and Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department, to conduct an inquiry in a time-bound manner within 7 days.
The Secretariat’s order, issued by Nitishwar Kumar, Principal Secretary to Lt Governor, also put on hold the recent transfer order of the consultant, in which she was transferred to SDH Kangan by the incumbent director after being dismissed from a senior position in the health department.
After this, the government of Jammu and Kashmir directed the Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education Department, to take up the complaint of the senior consultant with the Internal Complaint Committee of the department, which has been set up to look into sexual harassment allegations.
Accordingly, the Under Secretary to the Government for Health and Medical Education (H&ME) Department wrote to the Chairperson of the Internal Complaint Committee, Ms Satvir Kour Sudan (Director General P&S), to take note of the sexual harassment complaint and enquire into it taking on-board members of the committee. The committee was constituted on October 23 by the H&ME department.
“I am directed to invite your attention towards the above cited subject and to request you to enquire the issue in terms of Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) constituted by the H&ME Department vide Government Order No. 818 JK (HME) of 2020 dated 23.10.2020. The complaint along with allied documents, as received, are enclosed for further necessary action,” reads the order.
The Internal Complaint Committee chaired by Satvir Kour Sadan has as members Dr Samia Rashid, Principal Government Medical College Srinagar, and Dr Renu Sharma, Director Health Services Jammu.
Two weeks after the Internal Complaint Committee was set up, there is yet to emerge any report or outcome in the matter.
The female consultant told Kashmir Reader that no one from the inquiry committee has approached her to take her statement.
“I don’t know where the probe has reached, or has it even begun. It has been two weeks since the probe was ordered but there hasn’t been any sort of progress. No one has approached me for my comments in this regard. I just hope that justice prevails to put an end to this atmosphere of harassment and intimidation in the department,” she said.
She added that she continues to suffer harassment from the incumbent Director. “I’m being closely monitored and stalked, on the directions of the incumbent director. There is no end to the constant mental and emotional torture I am being put through.”
Despite several orders from the government, top officials at the Health and Medical Education department say that they are yet to receive any communication through a proper official channel in this regard. Only when such communication is received, they say, can the inquiry committee begin its probe and reach any conclusion.
Satvir Kour Sudan, the chairperson of the Internal Complaint Committee, told Kashmir Reader, “I haven’t seen any sort of complaint forwarded by the government to us. There hasn’t been any inquiry at all in this matter till now. There hasn’t been any communication from the government through an official channel to our office.”
She added, “The official communication to our department may have been delayed due to the Durbar Move. I’ll check with the government in this regard. If there has been a proper order, we’ll definitely look into this matter.”
Atal Dulloo, Financial Commissioner, H&ME department, told Kashmir Reader that the department has not received any official order from the government to set up an Internal Inquiry Committee pertaining to the allegations levelled against Director Health Services Kashmir.
“Yes, the order for inquiry in this regard has been issued by the General Administration Department (GAD) but the order copy has not been received by our department officially. Once we get the official communication, we’ll get the inquiry conducted in a time-bound manner,” Dulloo said.
A 6-page complaint
The female Consultant MCH (Maternity and Child Care) has been working in the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir for the past 23 years. When the current director joined last year, she was dismissed from a key post she was holding in the department and was later transferred to a Sub District Hospital.
In her complaint, a copy of which is with Kashmir Reader, the female consultant has accused the incumbent director of sexual harassment, intimidation and personal vindictiveness after failing to draw undue and unsavoury favours from her while repeatedly trying to call her, and insisting that she spend time with him.
“I received a call from him (Director Health) at 8:30 PM when he was drunk. He started with some nonsense about some obscure drug list, in reply to which I repeatedly told him that I had no such list. However, he was repeatedly pleading with me to call him. ‘Mujhe phone karna’ were his precise words. I was curt with him and I dropped the phone when he used unparliamentary language. However, instead of feeling ashamed of his act, he started bullying me and harassing me from the very next day,” the complaint reads.
Only a day later, she states in her complaint, the incumbent director issued an order removing her from the post of Nodal Officer. A few days after, her official vehicle was withdrawn without specifying any reason.
The incumbent Director even forced her once to hand over a paper to him personally, when she was in Sopore for official work. The Director demanded that she return and hand over the papers personally. “Dr S.M. Kadri is witness to this episode. The victim blaming and shaming was so severe that I wept many times,” she states.
While facing constant harassment and a hostile environment, she says that she was compelled to change her office building to move to a shabby office in Barzulla, in order to escape from the consistent bullying.
“He (Director) would repeatedly ask me to go and meet higher officials in the secretariat whenever I had a chance to visit Jammu. When I asked him what was the purpose behind this, the answer was vague “Salaam kar kay jaana tha,” she states in her complaint.
She further states that the incumbent director would call her to his office ten times during the day to make her stay in his cabin, telling her, “Why can’t you sit in my office? Can’t you sit with me for ten minutes?”
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Director began working from home, and started calling her there. “I was forced to go to his Gupkar residence to get my relieving letter signed by him,” she states.
In the six-page complaint, the Consultant MCH has accused the Director of mentally harassing her and attempting to destroy her career and reputation using his power and position.
She has also mentioned that this was not a rare case in the health department as the incumbent Director has been habitual of calling lady officers at odd hours in a similar way. They couldn’t raise their voice against it, fearing that they would face intimidation and vindictiveness in similar pattern, she states in the complaint letter.