NIFT Hyderabad fires 56 housekeepers who accused professor of sexual harassment; women allege inaction by institute, police

The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Hyderabad has fired 56 housekeeping staff after they accused a professor of sexual harassment. Some of these workers who alleged that D Srinivas Reddy, a stenographer who continues to work at NIFT, sexually abused the women and used sexual expletives and connotations while speaking to them, have been employed with the institute for almost a decade. NIFT has now asked the agency to send their replacement, The News Minute reported.

The development comes days after a group of around 13 NIFT staffers staged a protest against the management's alleged inaction against their sexual harassment complaint against Reddy. The protestors, who demanded Reddy's resignation, claimed that neither the Internal Complaints Committee of NIFT nor the police had taken any action against a senior faculty member, The New Indian Express reported.

The supervisor of the housekeeping staff at NIFT lodged a complaint against Reddy in October 2018 after a year of hearing complaints from the women and inaction by the NIFT management. Ratna Kumari said two to three women had quit their jobs over this period. "unable to bear the harassment". "When we finally decided to file a harassment case against Reddy, he started threatening our contractor to restrain us from filing the complaint," she was quoted as saying by The News Minute.

"He would hold the women staff by their hips, click their photographs without consent and invite them home to sleep with him... He became so open about his acts that he would directly come to me and ask me to send young and pretty women to his cabin. When I told him that none of the women wanted to work with him, he said that I have a good figure and asked me to sleep with him."

The woman who protested at the NIFT Hyderabad campus on Monday said they were forced to stage the agitation as no authority, be it at the institute or the police, had taken action on their sexual harassment complaint against Reddy. "We filed a complaint some seven months ago, but till this date, nobody has helped us out," the staff supervisor was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.

 NIFT Hyderabad fires 56 housekeepers who accused professor of sexual harassment; women allege inaction by institute, police

NIFT Hyderabad has fired 56 housekeeping staff who accused a professor of sexual harassment. Facebook/NIFT Hyderabad

The police, who detained the protestors, claimed that they were investigating the case but were "also looking into the aspect of a possible fake case as the faculty member accused had pulled up the contractor last year for poor performance". "This could be a motivated attempt," claimed Deputy Commissioner of Police, Madhapur, Venkateshwar.

The owner of Murali Manpower Agency, who sends housekeeping staff to NIFT, told The News Minute that seven months ago, Reddy had demanded that Kumari be removed from her job.

"Reddy was not authorised to look after the housekeeping services and I was puzzled. Never before had I received a complaint about any of my staff. I went to the campus the next day and enquired with Kumari about the issue. She and the other women told me Reddy sexually harassed them... I offered Kumari a job elsewhere, but she was not ready to resign because she had done no wrong," Murali said.

NIFT sent an order to Murali's agency on Tuesday, asking the contractor to end the services of these 56 women on campus, claiming "lapses on the part of the housekeeping team".

The women have lost their jobs at NIFT, but they have vowed to keep up their fight till Reddy is removed from his job.

"The one who is harassing us is being protected inside the institute, and we are being threatened and are losing our jobs. They (the director and the faculty of NIFT) keep threatening us. They say we can get our jobs back if we compromise. But we do not want to compromise. The director general of NIFT is a woman. We don't know whether she is aware of the issue yet. Wouldn't she at least ensure that we get justice?" Kumari told The News Minute.

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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2019 13:08:47 IST