How enfranchised are techies?
Dates for the Lok Sabha elections are expected to be declared any day now. Unless polling is on a weekend it seems unlikely that a majority of the 40,000 employees at Technopark will be casting their votes on the day. Apparently, very few, if any, of the companies on campus give their employees leave on the day of polling.
“It’s an unfortunate situation because a significant number of techies on campus hail from outside the city. So even if they are enfranchised, voting is going to be a problem for them,” says Anjana Gopinath, who works for an MNC. “For example, I was not able to cast my vote for the past several elections, centre and state, because I was registered to vote at my native place. I’ve been feeling guilty about it too because, there is no point in berating the problems of the country without you yourself doing something about it. This time, I’ve transferred my registration here, and I intend to cast my vote.”
Techie Abhishek R., who hails from Palakkad, and calls himself a ‘concerned citizen’, is a bit more vitriolic about the situation. He says: “It’s undemocratic! I will have to take leave if the election is on a working day. I will do it because I want to vote and believe it is the right of every citizen to vote. But, how many other techies are there, who will give up one of their precious leaves just to vote? Unless they are that committed to politics, not many I guess.”
Sanjay Bhaskar, an accounts manager with an MNC, explains the situation thus: “Our clients don’t have a day off on polling day here. In a place like Technopark where everything hinges on client satisfaction, it’s wishful thinking to imagine that we’ll get leave on the day. What many of us generally do on that day is take the work from home option. Then again, less than 50 per cent of techies on campus have that option.”
On that note, the general opinion is that not many techies are interested in politics in the first place. “Unless, of course, it has something to do with their immediate environment. For example, if it is something to do with Technopark, then everyone has an opinion. But that’s it. They won’t involve themselves further,” says Abhishek, recalling a spirited post-budget discussion on campus, organised by a television channel, where many points regarding the funds allocated to Technopark were brought up.
However, techies also say that there is a rising awareness regarding politics among their ilk, albeit on a small scale, particularly since the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement began and with the coming of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “The movement was hotly discussed online and on campus. Quite a few IT professionals have signed up for AAP and they were among the earliest such recruits. In fact, three members of the district committee are in IT,” says techie Arun Babu, an active member of the party.
Anjana adds: “A lot of my friends seem to be motivated by the movement and nowadays are taking a keener interest in politics.” However, Sanjay, one of the motivated few, adds: “Given our busy schedules, just how much time techies can devote to such movements is debatable. I signed up for the movement but I haven’t been able to attend any meeting thus far. Politics requires a lot of commitment.”
Interestingly, Technopark rules and regulations prevent any sort of political gathering within the campus. Some associated organisations such as Nasscom have started sending circulars encouraging techies to cast their votes.