Last updated on 29th June 2017
[Readers who don't like reading about unpleasant matters related to Prasanthi Nilayam should skip reading this post.]
I debated for some time whether I should put up this post. But then I remembered how I suffered when I was mentally harassed in 2011-12 by Sai university administrators (ex HOD DMACS V. Chandrasekaran, Registrar Naren Ramji, ex vice-chancellor Sashidhara Prasad and then Director PN campus Sudhir Bhaskar) with NOT A SINGLE COLLEAGUE in the Sai university daring to oppose these administratrors' Asathya-Adharma actions (untruthful and unethical actions) against me which I view as teacher-droham paapam (harmful sin committed against teacher). It was a VERY VERY LONELY & TRAUMATIC PERIOD for me in Puttaparthi then which affected both my mental and physical health!!! [To know more details about my problem please see my blog post: My May 2012 service record & record tampering related correspondence with Sai university (SSSIHL) administrators, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/11/my-may-2012-service-record-record.html.]
So I felt that I should not stay silent in this case of Saiprabha Patnaik where she seems to have committed suicide out of what she felt was mental harassment. I repeat this is what she felt as mental harassment - I am not stating that she was mentally harassed. That judgement can be done only after conducting an investigation into her complaints and listening to the views of those she has complained against.
Today's (28-June-2017) Eenadu Telugu paper's Anantapur district supplement carried an article which is critical of the slow pace of the police investigation into Saiprabha Patnaik suicide case. I have attached a pic of that article below.
[To open pic in higher resolution, right-click on pic followed by open in new tab/window, and in new tab/window click on pic to zoom in.]
My Telugu is barely OK and so I needed help from others to understand what is conveyed in this article. To be on the safer side, in what I have given below, when in doubt I have chosen to use slightly watered-down/softer version of what was conveyed to me/what I understood, from the Telugu article. However, readers should please note that there may be some inadvertent mistakes in my English version below of some of the contents of the Telugu article.
The article states that Saiprabha's laptop contained 'aatmahatyaku kaaranaalu' - reasons for (her) suicide, and 'manasikanga vedhimpulaku gurichesina vyaktula vivaraalu' - details of the person(s) who caused her mental stress/agony. The article indicates that Saiprabha Patnaik has stated that Satyajit (Salian), Vidyavahini project director (who would have been her boss, I guess) was causing her mental stress/harassment due to which she is committing suicide (or words to that effect). [Note that I think this seems to have been work (Vidya Vahini work) related stress.]
Now I hasten to say that just because Saiprabha Patnaik has made such statements, one cannot jump to any conclusions about whether Satyajit Salian and/or any others in Vidya Vahini mentally harassed Saiprabha. One has to listen to/read Satyajit and/or others' versions as well before one arrives at a conclusion whether Saiprabha's claim is true or not.
I also hasten to say that the tone of the Eenadu article is very aggressive in terms of questioning police why action has not been taken. My previous posts which shared Indian Supreme Court judgements on abetment of suicide charges, clearly shows that ONLY SUICIDE NOTE blaming person(s) is NOT enough grounds for abetment of suicide (criminal) charge. There has to be evidence of ACTUAL ABETMENT by the accused persons KNOWING that she may/would commit suicide, for such a charge to be upheld. So I oppose the aggressive tone of the Eenadu article about lack of action from the police. I further am of the view that even if the local police make an abetment of suicide (criminal) charge against Satyajit and/or others BASED ONLY ON SUICIDE NOTE, a good lawyer can tear that criminal charge apart when it comes up for hearing in a (criminal) court of law.
However, I think the police should make a statement giving the public a status update of their investigation into this case.
Given below are the comments from my Facebook post,
https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1929437613939473, associated with this post:
In response to comment, "Noted the contents. Good, you put up the post, Anna. Truth, will definitely come to light.", I (Ravi) wrote:
Thanks for your support for the truth being brought to light, in a fair way to all concerned.
--Name-snipped-- wrote (slightly edited):
From a general perspective, i wish to add, to a large extent it could (be) "work related stress". I don't have much info. about the working style of Vidya Vahini, i can say it is not a small unit, they have expanded their horizons far & wide. So, maybe, there's too much pressure on Staff to complete projects. We live in a fast paced life, hence it is the responsibility of Bosses & Section Heads to take care of their Staff. At the end of the day, we are Humans, have our own personal life too. It's not easy to manage personal & professional life too. One should have "Me time" to de-stress & go back to work energised.
Ravi S. Iyer wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped--, I think stress management has to be shared by bosses/section heads as well as staff. All are human including the bosses/section heads and staff. However, bosses are in a position of power and so can fall into the trap of abuse of power and mental harassment of their subordinates.
Staff should know how to raise their grievances. Bottling it up inside does not work. Sharing it with colleagues may help but in PN ashram system it is my personal experience that colleagues don't want to get in bad books of bosses/section heads and so will not go beyond lip sympathy. Instead they will offer advice which tries to spiritually rationalize mental harassment by bosses as Swami test, Karma etc.
In 2011-12, I was advised to simply follow the HOD's instructions not only by the vice-chancellor but also by some colleagues! One senior colleague (Visiting Faculty designation) stopped associating then with Vidya Vahini work because the HOD phoned him up and asked him to do that! I mean, whether what the boss says is right or wrong does not matter. My HOD was IGNORANT about software development. How could I follow that ignorant about software development man's instructions about teaching/research related to software development!.
Just follow the boss's instructions or leave (the leave part was implied not explicit), were the options I was given by the vice-chancellor, Sashidhara Prasad. He was not bothered about finding out who was right or who was wrong. He needed the HOD more than me, so I could be dispensed with! As simple as that!
I choose to leave rather than compromise on Sathya and Dharma, and desecrate and pollute my field of software development by following the IGNORANT about software development HOD's instructions in my teaching & research in software development role in the Sai university. But then I was financially independent and offering FREE SERVICE (for nine years from Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2012), and so did not have to worry about economic survival in Puttaparthi when I quit. I should clarify that my financial independence is due to me leading a simple ceiling-on-desires, single (unmarried) spiritual aspirant/free Seva/service worker life.
Staff in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram system who cannot handle the work pressure or mental harassment or whatever, should simply quit the job, if they are not financially dependent on PN ashram system job. I don't know the financial dependence aspect in Saiprabha Patnaik's case. But I have received reports that she was quite good in at least some aspects of the work she did in Vidya Vahini. So I think she surely could have got some job, say even as a teacher of computer skills job, somewhere, and managed to live a simple ceiling-on-desires life on it. Perhaps she was too emotionally entangled with Vidya Vahini and the status she may have had in her social circles including Vidya Vahini colleagues, due to that job. That emotional attachment to one's job including any social status associated with it, is a problem in such scenarios. One should not get so attached to one's job and social status associated with it, that one cannot walk away from it due to this emotional attachment, if things become difficult.
For those (paid) staff in Prasanthi Nilayam system who are financially dependent on their job and feel that they are mentally harassed by their bosses (and/or colleagues), it is a difficult situation. I don't know what to say for people who are caught up in such situations. I pray to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to help them. Jai Sairam!
You are absolutely right. I'm an old timer too. My (late) mother was associated with PN since late 1950s. I'm very much aware how was it then & now. I know their mindset very well. And i do agree with you, when one is financially dependent on them, it's sad they can't speak out. You are fortunate enough to be financially independent, hence, you are in a better place today. Sairam.
[Ravi S. Iyer Facebook-liked the above comment.]
In response to comment, "Authorities should conduct enquiry and the culprit/s should be punished.", I (Ravi) wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- sir, I think the police authorities don't seem to have a criminal case for abetment of suicide (I explained why in the post above). However, the police could share with the public, appropriate information about what Saiprabha Patnaik said as the reason for her committing suicide. So far, while media has reported some material which is what I have used in the post, I don't think the police have officially stated much about what Saiprabha Patnaik has written in her suicide note(s) or equivalent.
What I expect is that the police investigation will not result in any criminal charges being made, and that the case will be closed as suicide due to mental trauma. Based on what has been revealed in the media so far, I think that will be the fair action from police as per current law in India about these matters.
However, after the police investigation is complete, or perhaps in parallel to it, IDEALLY, Prasanthi Nilayam (PN) ashram system bosses should initiate an INTERNAL investigation to find out the truth about allegations of (work related) mental harassment made by Saiprabha Patnaik against her Vidya Vahini boss(es). IDEALLY, they should share appropriate parts of this report (some parts may be kept confidential) with the Sathya Sai fraternity PUBLICLY. This would then let Sai fraternity know what happened, from a top level investigation view. Then the report should suggest steps to avoid such very tragic incidents in future. This part is very important. And this part MUST BE SHARED PUBLICLY with the Sai fraternity.
But then, will Prasanthi Nilayam system have the resources, time and the will to go through these INTERNAL investigation and public report tasks? I doubt it. PN is more of a day-to-day management system having day-to-day management challenges, sometimes very unexpected challenges like this tragic suicide case, with a fluid group of volunteers and a backbone of very small base of regular paid staff. It will be difficult for PN system to engage in such an investigation due to resources, time and will challenges.
But PN system has already taken top-level action for which I think they need to be commended. Satyajit Salian is no longer with Vidya Vahini. I was informed that a senior lady who has been with PN system for some years now, has been chosen to take over as Director, Vidya Vahini. I support that decision. I think a senior lady who has served in PN system for some years now, and is an alumnus of Sai university, being boss of Vidya Vahini now will be a good way to rebuild morale especially among lady volunteers (& perhaps some staff too) in Vidya Vahini. I believe there are many such lady volunteers (& perhaps some staff too) in Vidya Vahini.
A downside of such a decision to change the head of Vidya Vahini is that the outgoing person (Satyajit) seems to have not got a chance to defend himself in this matter. But such is life in PN system. It takes one major disastrous event in a section to shift a section head out of his current work to something else. The section head has to take such stuff in his stride or quit PN system. Tough! But, I repeat, such is life in PN system.