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EXIT AKBAR

The #MeToo movement in India has claimed its first scalp in the name of a Union Minister. With the resignation of MJ Akbar as minister of state for external affairs, after initial hesitation, the popular cause for safety of women in workplaces has registered a major victory. This is bound to embarrass the Narendra Modi government at least to an extent in the run-up to the next parliamentary polls, but chances are also that this might not be last such case involving a governmental figure.

The campaign in India has already made several top names in the entertainment as also media industry run for cover, or even resign from their high posts. This, after the US-initiated global campaign hit several male reputations in the West in a matter of a few months. More of such “exposes” are bound to come out and this is time for many in various walks of life to be prepared to face the consequences of their wayward actions in workplaces or elsewhere.

The minister has, upon his return from an official visit to Nigeria, filed a case against one of the woman professionals who raised serious allegations against him, and outright rejected all the charges levelled against him by her as also some other former colleagues at work. His initial effort seemed to be to fight back and hang on to the chair. More allegations followed. Under the circumstances, it was untenable that he continues in the ministry as the reputation of the government itself was seriously ruptured. One is not guilty until proven so. Akbar will still have time to prove his innocence or face the consequences of his allegedly wrong actions.

On the positive side, the campaign and the resignations of several key figures from their posts following the levelling of charges would send out right signals and help clean up the workplaces of wrong trends, and restore sanctity there. The setting up of a panel by the Union Government with some retired judges at its helm, in the backdrop of the flurry of allegations, is welcome. This would also ensure that only genuine allegations will spring up in future as there would be legal scrutiny of every word that is sent out in the form of accusations. Since several of these complaints related to incidents that were alleged to have taken place long years ago, producing evidence might not be easy for the complainants. But, this might not act as a constraint in bringing the guilty to book.

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