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Woman IFS officer alleges sexual discrimination

Press Trust Of India
Mar 12, 2008 at 10:59pm IST

New Delhi: Disappointed at being ignored for three key posts, a senior woman IFS officer has accused the Government of having "gender-bias" and "extraneous considerations" rather than professionalism in deciding high-level appointments.

Secretary-level officer Veena Sikri has written a strongly-worded letter to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, saying that she had been "discriminated against, both professionally and personally" in consideration of her request for Ambassadorship to the UN or UK and nomination to the Commonwealth.

Sikri, who had earlier raised questions over appointment of Shivshankar Menon as Foreign Secretary superseding her, said that she was deeply saddened by the fact that the country's governance was witnessing the tendencies of "regionalism and cronyism".

INTERNAL AFFAIRS: The officer has written to Mukherjee, saying that she had been "discriminated against, both professionally and personally".

After being superseded by a two-year junior, the 1970-batch officer had requested that she be posted as India's Permanent Envoy to the UN, nomination as Commonwealth Secretary General or High Commissioner to London.

However, the request did not find favour with the Government.

"Officially, no reasons have been given for denying me these assignments," she said in letter to Mukherjee, adding "Informally, I have been told that I should not aspire to any of the top posts and that I am being punished for raising questions about the appointment of the Foreign Secretary."

The former high commissioner, who has been on protest leave for last 15 months, said: "I have the strong impression that of late it is extraneous considerations rather than professionalism, which regrettably influence high-level government appointments."

"In Parliament, government has made serious commitments to ensuring gender equality and strengthening the role of women in India's political, social and economic life. The situation on the ground, however, remains quite different," Sikri said in the March 3 letter.

"I would like to strongly reiterate the need for transparency, justice and objectivity, without either personal or gender-based bias, in government appointments at all levels if we are to have a bureaucracy committed to good and honest governance, so essential and critical for achieving our national objectives in domestic and foreign policy," she said.

Contending that she was the country's senior-most IFS with "consistently outstanding record", she said, "in my case, despite my professional qualifications, government has not responded to my letters and has made no effort to give any justice to me."

Sikri, who is due to retire by the year-end, suggested that the government even tried to "humiliate" her by offering a junior ambassadorship in lieu of the postings she wanted.

Sikri had earlier approached the Central Administrative Tribunal against appointment of Menon as Foreign Secretary.

Her husband Rajiv Sikri, who was also Secretary-level IFS officer, had also protested against Menon's appointment.

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