By M Satheish
The recent brutal attack on Radha*, a young techie at Pallikaranai in Chennai in the wee hours of Tuesday has once again raised the issue of safety of IT employees, especially women. She was riding her two-wheeler, when unidentified men clubbed her with an iron rod, leaving her bleeding on the side of the road. They then decamped with her two-wheeler, jewellery and mobile phone. Radha is only the latest victim in a series of crimes against women techies across the country.
Last year, Rasila Raju of Infosys in Pune was found murdered inside the company. In 2014, Seetha*, working with TCS was allegedly raped and murdered in Chennai. Her body was discovered 10 days later, metres away from the Siruseri campus.
In the wake of these horrendous incidents the companies were strictly made to provide cab facilities to their employees. In Radha's case there is a claim doing the rounds from the company's side that Radha denied the cab service that night. Claims such as this are being used to hide the actual crisis that results in inadequate safety measures for women employees. Let us put into perspective the various problems faced by employees just with respect to cab facilities.
1) Most of these flashy big companies have made themselves present at the outskirts of the city. Employees have to travel as much as 100 kilometres a day to and from office. Young mothers and even pregnant employees are not spared from travelling such long distances. Would these companies consider the fact that the top most priority of these employees is to be provided with work from home option? Would they show as much urgency in enabling this option for them as they show for clients and deadlines?
2) Are the cab facilities managed properly? Say if employees living in Tambaram, Pallikaranai, Keezhkattalai are bundled together in a single cab, it is almost double the actual time the last employee takes to reach his/her home. This is in addition to 10 to 11 hours of average work time that the employee puts in.
3) In the wee hours or what we call the graveyard shift (that ends at 1:00AM, 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM), there arenâ€™t too many cabs available. Meaning, if the employee completes work at 2:10 AM, then the next available cab for her/him would be at 3:00 AM and it's up to the employee to wait and avail.
4) It is mandatory for companies to drop women employees at home during night shifts. But the companies have unwritten rules that the employees would be dropped at home only if they fall within specified kilometres. Else they would be dropped only at nodal points and the employee has to take care of the rest of the journey no matter what the time is.
5) For the sake of complying with regulations, some companies do provide cab facilities. But in reality, the same cab will do multiple trips forcing employees to wait for the cab to come back and pick them up. By the time, the car comes back, employees would have left.
6) Most IT/BPO employees do not have control over their â€˜out timeâ€™ or the time of departing the office. It depends on the manager or the client. The onus on booking the company cab 2 to 3 hours prior to the â€˜out timeâ€™ falls on the employee. But itâ€™s close to impossible for employees to judge when he/she will leave, when the matter rests with the employeeâ€™s superior or client. As a result, he/she misses the cab and is forced to arrange their own means of transport.
7) While these are the problems in companies that do have cabs, the fact is many IT employers exist without providing such transport facilities.
The IT sector employs a large section of workers who have migrated from different cities and states. Radha too hails from a different state. It is the responsibility of the government and the management to provide affordable and secure hostels and residencies for these employees adjacent to the companies. It is imperative that such incidents are reported and get attention. Often hundreds of incidents go unreported and are buried on campus. With Unions such as ours reaching out with demand charters, it is the need of the hour for managements and governments to conduct tripartite meetings (management, government and Union) to resolve all employee related problems including that of cab management.
M Sathiesh is the General Secretary of Forum for IT Employees (F.I.T.E) - Tamil Nadu