Let us not compare IT and agriculture. Each has its own share of problems. How individuals spend their earnings is a personal choice. When someone is spending, someone else is gaining.
One of the articles in the Open page (April 24, 2011) talked of suicides of silk farmers. It said how a couple committed suicide because they were unable to pay a loan of Rs 80,000. There was a sarcastic comment too: ‘This is equivalent to an IT couple's one month salary.' As a professional working in the IT industry for the past seven years, I was deeply saddened by that comment.
Most people out there believe that IT (Information Technology) people working in swank air-conditioned offices are paid handsomely and that they are flaunting their wealth. Let me tell you something. The air-conditioned office is not for us, but the computers need it. Yes, we are paid well in good times compared to other industries but does anyone know the hours we put in the office? A typical day starts at 7:30 a.m. as most of the IT offices are on the outskirts of cities and he/she needs to travel at least 1-2 hours to reach office after all the traffic blocks. Most of them return home by 7:30 p.m. or much later. That is the schedule day in and day out. Almost 12 hours. Besides, many employees have to take calls at home, work from home beyond office hours and, mind you, our industry does not pay overtime. Whether you work eight hours or 14 hours, we get paid the same gross salary.
Farmers' suicides are very sad. But did anyone think about the IT people and what happened to us when the recession hit us in 2008-2009? None. We get more, but the government gets higher revenue too as income tax. Can't we say that this revenue is used to write off the loans of farmers? But did anyone write off the loans of IT guys or extend their repayment period when many lost jobs or their salaries were cut during the recession? Did any student get waiver for his education loan because he was not absorbed in the IT sector due to recession? The answer is no. Nobody thought about us because as you think we are the rich guys.
Does anyone realise that job security in the IT sector is not that great? If you need your job, you have to work hard and performance alone counts. Every year, we are assessed for performance and our salary and perks depend upon how we fare with respect to the targets set for us. It is a highly competitive field and you have to be always on the top if you want to survive long term. If we buckle under pressure and decide on suicide, I guess IT people will have time only for that. We also have loans like housing loan, car loan, education loan, etc. A job loss or pay cut can badly affect our finances and our loan repayment capability. Others don't believe us. We get huge pay packets month after month. So how can we have loans?
While no one denies the abject poverty of farmers and others below the poverty line, why target us is our question. Since we are earning more and because of our higher purchasing power, we are indirectly providing employment to many others. We are doing something in our own way for a better society. But what are we getting in return? Double charge from autowallahs, double charge from grocery vendors and double charge from vegetable vendors. High rentals from house owners. But then everyone wants a share of IT guys' money which, according to them, is coming easily.
Farmer suicides are a reality. There are many contributing factors including government apathy, natural factors including calamities, low education levels of many rural farmers and corruption and exploitation by middlemen.
When we guys pay income tax and other taxes like service tax, sales tax, we expect the government to use the money for better infrastructure for the education and health of the underprivileged and, of course, for better disaster management in times of natural calamities.
Farmers also need to be responsible for their lives — not expecting the government to do everything. They should demand long-term solutions to their problems instead of all the time depending on loan waivers and subsidies. They can also form groups like the Kudumbasree initiative in Kerala. Through such groups they can try to bring their products directly to the end consumers rather than waiting for middlemen and increase their profits.
Let us not compare IT and agriculture. Each has its own share of problems. How individuals spend their earnings is a personal choice. When someone is spending, someone else is gaining. If the IT guys decide not to spend their earnings on their present lifestyle because many people are poor, it will add more numbers to the list of the poor. So leave that choice to them and don't make a big issue of their paypackets.
(The writer's email is firstname.lastname@example.org)