In Surat, 25 Women Home Guards Allege Sexual Harassment by Seniors

As many as 25 women home guards in Gujarat’s Surat have accused two senior officials of harassment and seeking sexual favours, prompting an inquiry. The women approached city police commissioner Satish Sharma on Friday, 2 November, with a written complaint.

Sharma said a 'local complaints committee' set up under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was looking into it.

There are over 50 female home guards posted in Surat, who earn Rs 300 per day.

The complaint named two senior home guard officials, alleging that the duo subjected women to ‘mental, physical, sexual emotional and financial harassment’, and even asked sexual favours from some of them.

Superiors Also Accused of Corruption

In their complaint, a copy of which is with The Quint, the home guards have accused Home Guard Platoon Sergeant Bhavna Kantharia and Officer-in-Commanding Somnath Vhrewal of abuse, assault and corruption.

According to the complaint, Kantharia abused the female home guards verbally and physically. It states that she and Somnath were in this together. Kantharia allegedly used to tell the guards to approach Somnath if they had any problems, and when they did so, he used to call them to his house.

Kantharia, the complaint said, also tried to coerce women to spend time with Somnath during duty hours. The duo allegedly also demanded bribes from the home guards for postings at posh locations.

The home guards have also accused Kantharia of docking their attendance for two months. Hence forcing them to go to Somnath to complain.

The home guards say the breaking point for them came on 31 October, when they were called to the parade ground. Somnath allegedly inspected the parade and inappropriately touched Home Guard Mangla Bagle under the pretext of fixing her uniform. When she protested, Kantharia physically and verbally assaulted her.

Home Guards to Protest if Seniors Aren’t Sacked

In their complaint the home guards have declared that if the two seniors are not removed from their posts, they will organise a massive protest on 8 November.

The four-page complaint has also been sent to Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, official sources said.

“We have referred the matter to the district local complaints committee headed by a deputy commissioner of police," commissioner Sharma told reporters on Saturday.

"“Home guards have nothing to do with the police department, so we cannot take their complaints before the police’s internal committee. The local complaints committee has started inquiry into it.” " - Satish Sharma, Commissioner of Police, Surat

(With inputs from PTI)

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