Pune Techie Murder Restarts Debate on Safety
IT weighs in on solutions to keep workplace safe
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