New Delhi: The government Wednesday announced reconstitution of the Group of Ministers (GoM) to address sexual harassment at workplace with Home Minister Amit Shah as its head.
The panel will also have Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on board.
The GoM was first formed on 24 October 2018 at the peak of the #MeToo movement with former home minister Rajnath Singh heading the panel. It also comprised of other senior Union ministers such as Nitin Gadkari and Maneka Gandhi, apart from Sitharaman.
According to a government source, the reconstitution of this committee was decided after consultation with various stakeholders on ways to strengthen it further to prevent workplace harassment.
“Home Minister Shah has a zero-tolerance policy towards these matters. He is keen on strengthening this panel for effective implementation of the legal framework to deal with matters of sexual harassment,” an official said.
Purpose of GoM
“The GoM will recommend action required for effective implementation of existing provisions — strengthening the legal and institutional frameworks in order to address issues related to sexual harassment at workplace,” another government official said.
The official also added that the GoM will examine the existing provisions and recommend measures to strengthen them within three months.
“There was need for a new GoM that can give recommendations and lay down a comprehensive plan of action,” the official added.
Soon after the announcement, the Ministry of Women and Child Development also launched an electronic complaints box called ‘She-Box’ to help women — irrespective of where they work — to raise complaints.
“Once a complaint is submitted to the She-Box, it will be directly sent to the concerned authority having jurisdiction to take action in the matter,” a statement released by the government said.
Previous GoM met only once in eight months
A source in the Ministry of Home Affairs told ThePrint that the previous GoM only met once in eight months and the group was as good as being “defunct”.
According to the source, the first meeting was held in the month of December during which former women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had recommended measures to strengthen the National Commission for Women.
The source also said that the proposal was to give more power to the commission, with rights to summon people and even carry out independent investigations in matters of sexual harassment at workplace.
“It was suggested that the commission should be able to impose fines, search places and seize items. These suggestions were noted but nothing concrete came out of them,” the official said.
That was the last time that the GoM had met. “A few meetings were also planned but never held for several reasons,” the official further said.
When asked if the GoM was reconstituted due to poor performance of its previous version, the source added, “It has been reconstituted because the portfolios, including that of the WCD minister, have changed. One should not read too much into it.”
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