It was in September last year, Elisa Francis (name has been changed) filed a police complaint against Binoy Jacob, the Vice-President (VP) of Air India SATS, an Air India subsidiary exclusively for ground handling activities, alleging the latter’s abusive behaviour and misconduct towards the complainant. Nearly one year on, the police investigation has reached nowhere as the influential accused tries whatever possible to topple the investigation.
It has been a regular affair for Elisa Francis, a single mother of two, to meet the police after the day’s work either to enquire about the status of the investigation or to give an explanation for the unforeseen events which are evidently being created by the accused.
“The police has summoned me to question regarding a recent complaint launched by a cab driver at Air India SATS against the Assistant Vice President (AVP) who is one of my strong supporters in the case. The driver in his complaint says that the AVP persuaded him for unnatural sex. Those who know AVP Gerald Lim, can figure it out that the man is a gem of a person. This is nothing but one among a sequence of such incidents evidently cooked up by the accused and his team to derail the investigation,” says Elisa.
The whole story began in October 2015 when the complainant joined the Air India SATS office at Sasthamangalam, Thiruvananthapuram. Binoy Jacob who is middle aged and married began asking the newly joined administrative officer sexual favours offering professional escalation. “From the day one of joining the organisation I have been suffering his advances, but kept quite as I was very much aware of my responsibilities. The job was hard earned and I very badly needed it for me and my kids to survive. In the initial days he used to call me to his cabin every now and then,” she said.
Breach of policies and norms occur at every single state of affairs at the organisation. “I received my first salary even before I got my offer letter. Later I came to know that it was the regular practice and the similar thing has happened to other employees in the organisation.”
Days after her joining, Binoy Jacob is said to have asked the complainant her vital sizes and the accused even made a wild guess. “I had started feeling insecure in his presence. And some days after this incident I was told that I needed to attend a industrial level meeting where I would get a chance to meet top brass in the industry. He said this would be helpful for my professional growth and when I reached for the meeting in the hotel, I found nobody else other than this fellow. I asked him where are the other people and he replied there was no such meeting and I was told so just because he needed to share some private time with me. I was shocked by this response,” she said.
When similar incidents continued, she complained about the VP’s behaviour to HR head who is a lady and she tried to cover up the issue as she knew the VP was highly influential. “I observed other employees and found out that somebody else is also facing the same kind of trauma. The woman had recently joined and was highly enthusiastic in the initial days into the work. The sudden change in her level of enthusiasm and happiness signaled me something wrong and when I asked her, she said she was being abused by the VP in the same way I was being treated,” recollected Elisa.
Elisa was introduced to the accused by one of her family friends and when she said about the difficulties she was going through, the family friend asked her to resolve it within the organisation. Binoy continued his harassment and intimidation amidst all her refusals and objections. When she strictly turned down all his attempts, he began creating offensive and intimidating work environment for her.
“I was taken away from many of my key responsibilities and my probation was extended to another three months. He said I was under performing even when I was receiving applauds for my event management and administrative works. It was another shock.” She was also tried to be transferred to the Airport Office from the Air India SATS office where she would have to get attuned to completely different set of tasks and responsibilities. “There was no reason other than my continuous rejection of his invitations,” she said.
The accused even tried to demoralise Elisa and alleged that she had illegitimate relationship with a male employee.
At this point I decided to inform about this to AVP Gerald Lim and I sent him a detailed email pointing out each and every incident of abuse. Gerald has always been supportive and have done his level best to inform about the issue to the higher officials. An Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) was constituted after I complained and after a gimmick of probe, they finally declined my arguments and statements saying that there was no CCTV evidence. “This was another blow but I was firm in my position.”
Soon after she found that the ICC was just a drama and was heavily influenced by the VP, in September 2016, she filed a police complaint against the ICC report at the Museum police station. “The other woman who had faced the similar kind of abuse from the VP, also filed a complaint and the police started the probe based on these two complaints. Later I came to know that some other staff had also gone through the same situation and they were keeping mum fearing bad consequences.” The police registered a case under section 354A and 354D of IPC.
“After I filed the petition, he has been trying whatever he can to put my life in peril. I was even offered around Rs.10 lakhs at a point if I stepped back from my complaint.” CCTV cameras have recently been set up at every nook and cranny in the office which, she says, is a reaction to the complaint.
The accused is said to have been causing more and more trouble right from creating a highly intimidating and hostile work environment to spread false news against the complainant. “In a recent incident, a noted online news portal gave a news saying that the staff of Air India SATS who lodged a complaint against the VP was going to lose the battle. The news appeared with my name and photograph. When I inquired about this at their office, I was informed that the accused himself gave this news.”
The complainant has been sent a show cause notice by the department asking her as to why the department should not take an action against her for her asking for transportation to come to office on a hartal day in June. Besides, in another attempt of demoralising and demotivating the complainant, the Air India SATS has alleged that the woman had demotivated a couple of newly joined employees saying that some other earlier employees left the job because of salary issues.
Having gone through all these attacks and a multitude of setbacks including a hostile behaviour by the then State Police Chief Loknath Behra(also the present State Police Chief), the brave Elisa still finds her strong and focussed. “I am sticking onto the complaint not just for me. Such a thing should not happen to any woman who are working in an environment away from their home. And it is such a pathetic thing that a Government organisation like Air India SATS is not able to ensure a safe and secure work environment for the women folk. Such a thing should not happen in any work place, private or public. I know that I am playing with mightier and highly influential people. But I have a good number of well wishers and supporters with me in my battle against him.”
Elisa also alleged that even though the Airport Authority follows strict rules in allowing permissions for people to enter into the airport, it is indeed a surprise that, a person liked Binoy Jacob, against whom the police has registered a case still find it easy to enter into the airport premises. “Airport entry pass is given to people only after verifying the police clearance certificate granted by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and it is sheer breach of rules allowing a police accused to enter into the premises. Law should be same to the commoner and the people who wield power and influence,” she said.
A petition has also been filed at the National Human Rights Commission against Air India SATS for the blatant violation of human rights of the employees.
The Kochi Post had sent an email to Binoy Jacob seeking his response on the allegations but did not receive a reply at the time of the story going to press. Binoy Jacob’s image is a screengrab of a video via Asianet News.
Cover Image from here.