Pune-In a gripping Instagram reel that has sparked widespread concern, Arti Harle, a Dalit woman scientist working at the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune, has brought forth troubling allegations of caste based discrimination, mental harassment, and severe financial distress that has pushed her to consider a fast unto death. She asserts that her merit promotion has been withheld unjustly since 2014, and her salary was unlawfully stopped in November 2020. This has resulted in severe financial strain, leaving her homeless after being forced to leave her quarters. Harle, left with no choice, purchased a flat using her savings, and now faces the inability to pay EMI, recharge her phone, or settle electricity bills.
The Mooknayak spoke to Arti Harle to know more details about the issue. Starting her career at the Institute of Microbial Technology in Chandigarh, Harle recounted facing caste discrimination, molestation, and various forms of harassment. Hoping for a fresh start, she transferred to the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, only to encounter a continuation of similar discrimination.
The scientist outlined a systematic denial of access to essential resources such as basic infrastructure, scientific instruments, and chemicals required for her scientific work at NCL. Despite being officially appointed for the maintenance of the Electron Microscope Facility, she claims she was barred from entering the facility, effectively experiencing a form of modern-day untouchability.
The instagram reel reveals her active involvement in teaching and delivering lectures on advanced scientific topics like Electron Microscopy and its technologies. However, she alleges a conspiracy orchestrated by two fellow workers led to the abrupt discontinuation of her teaching responsibilities.
" I approached higher authorities, including the director, to address the caste-based atrocities, but my concerns were ignored. Shockingly, my harasser was promoted to an additional charge at NCL Pune, and i was handed a fraudulent charge sheet" Harle told The Mooknayak.
She also said, one of her colleague tried to kill her on 17th May 2016 by banging her head on staircase and closing her mouth with hand so that she couldn't shout and despite the incident happening in NCL campus, Director Dr Ashwini Nangia refused to call the police and police hasn't filed an FIR till date.
The scientist claims to have accepted a notice regarding wilful absence from duty, while working in office itself. " During this period i was in office and i punch the card but they are not giving record through RTI. This they have done to elevate my harassers as director and HOD unlawfully though a police complaint , atrocity case as well as complaint at women commission were pending. They stopped my salary so that i shouldn't go to court against their unlawful elevation," she told The Mooknayak.
Financial woes loom large in Harle's life, with her salary being unlawfully withheld since November 2020, as per her claims. This extended period without income has resulted in severe money problems, leading her to the brink of homelessness. Despite her regular attendance, she claims to have received notice marking her absent, exacerbating her financial strain. In an emotional revelation, she mentions purchasing a flat with her savings but now faces the inability to pay EMI, recharge her phone, or settle electricity bills.
The scientist shared with The Mooknayak that she has been hardly eating for many days, facing financial constraints that leave her unable to afford food. She expressed, "My parents have been supporting me during these years when I lived without a salary, but they too are elderly and rely solely on their pension. I can no longer be a burden on them." Additionally, she mentioned that her brother's assistance with recharging her phone is the only time she can communicate with anyone.
In a desperate plea for justice, Harle has announced her decision to fast unto death, using her Instagram account to draw attention to her plight.
The Mooknayak reached out to the Director of CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory seeking their perspective on the allegations. In response, a mail from Pooja Kulkarni, the Controller of Administration, acknowledged the receipt of our letter. The mail stated that the organization has taken cognizance of the concerns raised and assured that a detailed response would be provided in due course regarding the highlighted allegations and issues.
In response to the allegations made by scientist Arti Harle, Pooja Kulkarni, Controller of Administration at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune, issued a detailed and categorical denial, refuting the claims as baseless. In an official communication, Kulkarni addressed the specific accusations raised by Harle and provided a comprehensive rebuttal.
"As far as the allegation regarding salary is concerned, it is submitted that Miss Harle is not attending her duties since October, 2019 and for this several communications have been issued to her requesting her to resume her duty. Despite several communications, Miss Harle has not reported for duty till date and hence this organization was compelled to stop her salary as per the extant rules. It is also stated that in her capacity as government/ council servant, Miss Harle is bound by certain conduct rules."
"Regarding her allegations of caste based discriminations/ harassment this is to inform that number of committees comprising of SC & women members were constituted to redress and examine the grievances/ issues raised by Miss Harle however, Miss Harle did not appear before any of the committees which shows that Miss Harle is not interested in resolving the issues."
"As far as her claim regarding denial of basic infrastructure is concerned, it is a matter of fact that the authorities have gone beyond normal practice; though not a PhD holder, she was provided a separate large room and all research infrastructure// equipment's which normally is provided to a senior level scientist who has put in lengthy service and who acts as a guide to number of PhD students. This org. also allowed and facilitated Miss Harle to file patents directly with CSIR IPU as an exceptional case. It is a fact that Miss Harle has kept her room locked since October, 2019 which houses valuable and high end research equipment's which is hampering the research activity of other scientists/ students as they are not able to access the equipment/ instrument."
"A number of SC/ST/ OBC/ Women scientists and officers are holding responsible positions in this org. and this org. is committed to ensure that no caste/ gender based discrimination takes place at this org. which is of national repute. Further, it is submitted that Miss Harle is in a habit of making baseless/ false allegations, by bypassing appropriate channel, not only against senior level scientist/ officers (many of whom belong to SC/ST and women category) but also against the constitutional authorities like President and Prime Minister of India, Minister etc. using unparliamentary words, which is an act of unbecoming of a government/ Council servant."
"It is finally submitted that this org. has various systemic grievance redressal mechanisms available for its employees and instead of utilizing these mechanisms and resuming her duty, Miss Harle is defaming this reputed public funded org. which is a misconduct in itself."
"It is worth mentioning that being a public funded research org., we are tirelessly serving the people of our country through scientific research and innovation."