Pune Techie Mur­der Restarts De­bate on Safety

IT weighs in on so­lu­tions to keep work­place safe

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech - Priyanka.San­gani @times­group.com

Pune: The mur­der of 24-year-old Rasila Raju OP, an In­fosys em­ployee at the com­pany’s de­vel­op­ment cen­tre in Pune, last Sun­day has once again turned the spot­light on the is­sue of safety of women at work, par­tic­u­larly in the IT and BPO in­dus­try. Rasila was work­ing alone on Sun­day evening, col­lab­o­rat­ing with her col­leagues in Ben­galuru when she was mur­dered by a se­cu­rity guard. What’s per­ti­nent here is that there was no sex­ual as­sault, which has also raised the broader ques­tion of safety in the work­place — whether for men or women. Som Mit­tal, for­mer chair­man of in­dus­try body Nass­com, said that while what had hap­pened was ex­tremely un­for­tu­nate, it was more of a so­cial is­sue, rather than some­thing con­cern­ing only the IT in­dus­try. “Ev­ery time some­thing like this hap­pens, ev­ery­one in the in­dus­try tends to be­come more care­ful and re­view their ex­ist­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures. No com­pany ever takes these things lightly,” he said.

Among the ear­li­est such in­ci­dents in the in­dus­try had hap­pened at HP Glob­al­soft in 2005 when Mit­tal was lead­ing the BPO which had led to the in­tro­duc­tion of more strin­gent safety mea­sures for com­pa­nies. Even then, Mit­tal said that he had shared what mea­sures they had taken with the rest of the in­dus­try and ev­ery­one had tight­ened their pro­cesses. In a state­ment fol­low­ing this in­ci­dent, In­fosys said that it was relook­ing at ros­ters, es­pe­cially where sin­gle team mem­bers are re­quired to en­sure no em­ployee works alone on a shift, and de­ploy­ing ad­di­tional se­cu­rity in­clud­ing fe­male se­cu­rity guards in un­avoid­able sit­u­a­tions. It is also get­ting its se­cu­rity prac­tices re­viewed by a third-party ex­pert.

KPIT Tech­nolo­gies, lo­cated near the In­fosys cam­pus in Pune, is in the process of re-en­forc­ing the se­cu­rity steps and mea­sures the com­pany al­ready has in place with. Vaishali Vaid, Global HR Head, KPIT said: “We are re­mind­ing em­ploy­ees that they shouldn’t de­lay re­port­ing any in­ci­dent. If an in­ci­dent is re­ported, a com­mit­tee will re­view it and send me their rec­om­men­da­tion. We have a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy ,” said Vaid. The man­ager in charge of fa­cil­i­ties reg­u­larly re­views the mea­sures with the ven­dors ap­pointed, in­clud­ing sep­a­rate ses­sions for the fe­male ven­dors, to en­sure that they too are com­fort­able car­ry­ing out their jobs. At present, about 30-35% of the 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple work­ing in the IT-BPO sec­tor are women, though when it comes to fresh­ers, the num­bers are closer to 50%.

For al­most all com­pa­nies, em­ployee safety is at the top of the agenda. San­jay Chawla, head of in­fra­struc­ture and fa­cil­i­ties, In­te­lenet said, “Se­cu­rity guards ac­com­pany the driver in the cab, and if a woman em­ployee is work­ing night shift, she is either the first to be picked up, or last to be dropped off. Track­ing of last fe­male drop is un­der­taken through a phone con­fir­ma­tion, to en­sure they have reached home safely.” Prac­tices like this, along with strin­gent back­ground checks, breath anal­y­sis for driv­ers, emer­gency re­sponse sys­tems and panic but­tons are al­most a given in IT com­pa­nies today. The prob­lem though, ac­cord­ing to Ganesh Chella, Founder, To­tus Con­sult­ing, is that while ev­ery-thing is process driven, things of­ten fall through the cracks when it comes to ac­count­abil­ity.

“While fol­low­ing pro­cesses, it’s also im­por­tant to think about things from the hu­man per­spec­tive. Es­pe­cially when it is a large unit, it’s all face­less and there’s no sense of own­er­ship over a process,” he said. He ad­vo­cates bring­ing these tech parks un­der the Fac­to­ries Act in­stead of the Shops and Es­tab­lish­ments Act that they cur­rently come un­der to in­crease scru­tiny. In a tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, there is a unit head who is re­spon­si­ble for what goes on in the fac­tory. Vivek Pat­ward­han, for­mer HR Head at Asian Paints and now an HR coach, makes a sim­i­lar point to KPIT’s Vaid. “You have to be hy­per sen­si­tive to mat­ters like this... It’s not about be­ing proven guilty but be­ing above sus­pi­cion,” he said.

Ul­ti­mately, the so­cial con­text can­not be ig­nored. What hap­pens in the work­place is a mi­cro­cosm of so­ci­ety, and per­haps that is the larger is­sue that needs to be tack­led, even as re­view­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures and in­tro­duc­ing more strin­gent checks can help only to a cer­tain ex­tent.

Re­view­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures and in­tro­duc­ing more strin­gent checks can help only to a cer­tain ex­tent

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