Days after former director Dr Asha Kishore was forced to opt for voluntary retirement from the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, communications officer Swpana V has alleged that she is facing harassment at the institute.
Swapna V, who joined SCTIMST in 2017, arrived at the institute on Monday morning to see that her room had been bolted with a different lock. Outside her room, her name board had also been replaced, reading âvisiting facultyâ instead of âCommunications Officer.â
SCTIMST was caught in a storm of controversy this year after some opposed the extension of tenure for Dr Asha Kishore, the former director of the institute. While Dr Asha alleged that vested interests were targeting her, and had the backing of a few political leaders, she had supporters too at the institute.
Swapna rapport with Asha Kishore irked many. "As a public relations officer of a research and technology institute, it was my responsibility to report directly to the director,â Swapna says.
On Sunday, Swapna posted on Facebook, applauding Dr Asha. âAnyone can be a boss around but it takes someone special to be a leader. Thanks for being such a great leader,â she posted.
âThe next day, I lost my room at the institute,â she says.
While seeking voluntary retirement from December 9, Asha Kishore had cited harassment, stating that continuing at the post would be detrimental to her health.
It has been alleged that vested political interference has been targeting a section of employees at the institute. Professor K Jayakumar currently holds the director post at the institute.
On Tuesday, Swapna met the director. On Wednesday, she received a show cause notice accusing her of 'barging into the director'sroom and using abusive language at the executive director, with an intention to besmirch the director.
"PRO meeting director is not barging in, the Director's office till recently was accessible as the Director is my reporting officer," she says.
Swapna however alleges that the tension with the institute started even before her FB post. There was dissatisfaction regarding a press note that was drafted by the institute in response to stories on Malayalam media that a health data project called Kiran was under scrutiny.
âThat was a media note approved by the former Director and issued with the permission of the present Director. But when the news came, the current Director sent me a memo seeking explanation on November 25. I replied to the memo on November 30, but was told that it wasnât satisfactory. On December 2, I got a mail asking to shift my office to the hospital block at the institute campus, reason cited was additional responsibility including patient care management,â Swapna tells TNM.
âI replied to the mail saying that my primary duty as a communication officer and shifting the office to the hospital block would be inconvenient to meet people and that it would adversely affect patient movement too. But I was willing to do patient care as an additional duty, since itâs the Directorâs orderâ she says.
However, Swapna then wrote to the president of the Institute Dr VK Saraswat and he asked the Director for a report.
Swapna also alleges that the institute has frozen her bank account on December 1. âWhen I contacted the accounts section, she was told that it was a direction from the administrative wing,â she says. The account was reopened at 12 pm, following the demand.
Additionally, the âWork from Homeâ she availed during 2020 has been marked as unauthorised leave.
SCTIMST director K Jayakumar however tells TNM that Swapna was asked to shift her office to interact with the patients. "She was provided a new office in the hospital block," he said, adding that it would not affect her work since patient care is part of her job.
Regarding the freezing of the bank account, the director says that it had nothing to do with the institute, but was a mistake by the bank.
In terms of the âwork from homeâ and arrival after or departure after or before the meetings outside are being marked as unregularlised leave ,he says the accounts section only considers âpunch inâ and âpunch outâ.
Swapna's annual contract of employment ends in February. "I don't have anything personal against her. We will renew the contract if her work is fine," he says.