Post Delhi rape, pvt firms rush to set up Vishakha panels

As many as 391 committees formed in last few weeks

After the Delhi gangrape incident, the office of the Additional Labour Commissioner has seen a sudden rise in the number of women's vigilance committees being set up at private companies in the city. In the past few weeks, as many as 391 committees have been formed by various private companies, majority of which are IT and shopping malls.

The Vishakha Committee — as called after the 1997 Supreme Court judgment by the same name — is supposed to address complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. An apex court judgment had made it mandatory for all companies to form these committees comprising representatives of the company and NGOs, with no less than half of the members being women.

S S Kalamkar, a shop inspector, said in order to accelerate the formation of the committee, they have been issuing notices and conducting surprise visits at companies. "The office of the Additional Labour Commissioner has been taking up the issue of formation of the committees with private companies and sending out notices since the last year. We had issued over 2,000 notices to various companies, asking to form the Vishakha committees as non formation would be contravention to the apex court judgment," she said.

Kalamkar said although the companies complied with the directives about formation of the committees, they took some time and a follow up by the labour commissioner office was also needed. "However, after the outrage following the Delhi gangrape, the companies have been prompt in forming the committee." Shop inspectors visit commercial institutions to inquire about these committees. "In case such committees are not ready, we get it formed immediately and take down the contact number of the person concerned for our records," she said.

Some 391 such committees have been formed in the last few weeks. Welcoming the move, women's rights activist Kiran Moghe said the commercial sector should have taken the initiative long back and formed the committees on their own. "Rather than just being a complaint redressal forum, these committees should work pro-actively to make their work place harassment-free," she said.

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