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This Maharashtra Forest Officer Known As Lady Singham Committed Suicide After Being Sexually Harassed At Her Workplace

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For most of my childhood, I attended an all-girls school. And while we were taught to aim as high as possible and strive to build a career, there are a lot of things they left off the syllabus. How difficult it is for women to thrive in this world, for instance. You would think they would prepare us for the big, bad world but I guess learning about the Mauryan Empire was more important. The truth, that every woman learns the hard way, is that there are traps at every turn. Men in authority positions continuously abusing their power and privilege to get their way. And no matter how hard you work to prove your mettle, nothing is ever enough. The death of a woman forest officer in Maharashtra is proof of that. You see, she committed suicide after being subjected to sexual harassment and torture at the hands of a senior forest official. Women always have to bear the brunt.

28-year-old Range Forest Office Dipali Chavan-Mohite was popularly called Maharashtra’s “Lady Singham” for her outstanding work. She was posted in the Melghat Tiger Reserve (MRT) in Maharashtra’s Amravati. She rose to prominence for her bold approach against the local forest mafias. She had taken down smugglers and caught poachers red-handed. But alas, she saw no way out when a senior forest official, Vinod Shivkumar would not stop sexually harassing and torturing her despite numerous complaints. Dipali shot herself with her service revolver at her official quarters in the Harisal village near the tiger reserve. She was five months pregnant at the time of her death. Dipali left a suicide note behind that called out Shivkumar and all his crimes. This is extremely saddening.

Dipali’s suicide note said that she was drawn to take this drastic step after being subjected to sexual harassment and torture at the hands of Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Vinod Shivkumar. She pleaded with the authorities to take strict measures against this man so that no other woman has to go through the traumatic ordeal she was put through. The note goes into detail about how Shivkumar has been abusing his power, sexually harassing her and mentally abusing her for the last few months. She talks about his alcoholism, how he verbally abused her and the sexual harassment in the workplace that she faced every day.

Also Read: In Ratlam, A MLA Threatened A Woman Officer Because She Made Them Wait. Egotistical Much?

According to reports, Shivkumar could not bear that a junior officer was rejecting him and so he punished her in the form of difficult assignments, punishing work schedules, abuses and even withholding her salary for a month. The note read, “He asks me to meet him at late hours in the night and speaks to me in obscene language. Many times he called me to the tourist complex and even at the Akot diversion and tried to take undue advantage of my being alone with him. He is punishing me for not submitting to his whims.”

One of Dipali’s colleagues also revealed that in February 2020, Shivkumar forced Dipali, who was then pregnant, to accompany him on an arduous 3-day forest patrol. He made her walk and drive hundreds of km, completely ignorant of her condition. As a result of this, Dipali suffered a miscarriage which pushed her into a deep depression. If this is not torture, I don’t know what is. This case is a great example of why men need to be given lessons on how to accept and handle rejections. What happened here is sickening.

In her note, Dipali has also called out MTR Field Director, MS Reddy (IFS). He allegedly ignored all her complaints about Shivkumar and continued to side with him despite numerous workplace harassment complaints. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar has asked officials to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. Shivkumar and MS Reddy have been suspended. Authorities caught Shivkumar at the Nagpur railway station while he was waiting to board Rajdhani Express to Bengaluru. He has been taken back to Amravati while the investigation is ongoing.

This entire case is truly saddening. We lost an eminent woman all because a man could not handle his ego. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. Dipali was a promising forest ranger who had so much good work under her belt. With any luck, Shivkumar will spend the rest of his life behind bars for abetting her suicide. And so does MS Reddy who knew what was happening but did nothing to help Dipali.

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