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'Harasser' who lifts staff like little girls

Rajendra Pachauri

New Delhi, Feb. 21: Rajendra Pachauri, the chief of the Nobel-winning UN climate change panel, preyed serially on women employees for at least a decade at his New Delhi-based non-profit energy organisation, senior lawyers claimed today, citing a police complaint and a testimony filed by two women.

The lawyers' claims and interviews with two long-term employees at The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) suggest that Pachauri reigned over a culture of high-fives, hugs and other forms of physical contact that some women found loaded with sexual innuendoes.

Pachauri is the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, in 2007 "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change". Pachauri is also the director-general of Teri.

The testimony from a woman who says she was among Pachauri's victims when she worked at Teri in 2005 reads: "A sexual harasser 10 years back, a sexual harasser today. He did it to me and others then. He has done it to her and possibly others now.... His physical advances and sexual innuendoes and acts, often reduced to as 'inappropriate behaviour', have been common knowledge and corridor gossip."

She wrote in a letter to lawyer Vrinda Grover how she and other women who have worked in Teri "have in different points of time and capacities either been through similar harassment through his hands or known someone who did".

Grover said that this was not the only victim who had reached out to her after a 29-year old employee of Teri filed an FIR with the Delhi police on February 18, accusing Pachauri of sexual harassment.

"I know of at least three such cases, and the pattern is the same in every case," Grover said.

In the FIR, the complainant, who works as a research associate at Teri, has described how she was forcibly kissed and touched by Pachauri despite her repeated protests.

She has also attached text messages and mail detailing how he had continued to make lewd suggestions despite knowing that they were making her uncomfortable, she said.

The testimony, which the victim plans to publish soon, also refers to alleged incidents that happened on the rooftop garden of the Teri office where, she said, Pachauri "lifted female employees as if they were little girls. Some would run away seeing him approach them."

Another former employee who did not want to be named said that such inappropriate behaviour was commonplace at office, and the women working in the director-general's office - mostly researchers, scientists and academics - were referred to as the "fifth-floor girls" by the office grapevine.

At one point of time or another, the employee claimed, these women would get calls on their personal mobile numbers, enquiries on their personal lives, invitations for wine and dinners, handholding and kisses.

All these women, including the complainant, would have a nickname given to them by him - a derivative of their official name, the testimonial claimed.

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