Deepa Kurup

‘Recruiters see us as liability and think we are unproductive’

Chhattisgarh and Karnataka are the only States with a draft quota policy

The disabled form only 0.28 per cent of the workforce in private sector

BANGALORE: People with disabilities find it difficult to get jobs, both in the private and public sector undertakings, even a decade after the Persons With Disabilities Act 1995 came into effect.

Partha Pratim Dey, 33, who suffers from partial visual impairment, has been looking for a job in the IT sector. With seven years of work experience in software, a degree in zoology plus a three-year diploma from NIIT and training in Oracle, he has not met with any luck.

Says Mr. Dey: “When I apply for jobs, recruiters tell me that I am qualified but employing me is a risk. They have told me that if I write a wrong programme, it will affect the organisation. All the top companies, where I have applied, seem understanding but will not employ me.”

He can read using the magnifier version of Windows XP yet was forced to put in his papers twice when his employers discovered his handicap.

“At first, they appreciated my work and asked me to improve my speed. When they learnt that I was slow because I was partially blind, they changed tack and told me that I was inefficient,” he said. With increasing disability awareness in the private sector, several companies, including big names such as Progeon and Infosys have introduced corporate social responsibility initiatives. The Bangalore-based BPO firm 24/7 trains disabled people and then recruits those who meet their requirements.

“The teams that have disabled people are put through special training to ensure that they are able to work productively. We employ disabled persons in BPOs only because most of them are diploma holders and not qualified,” says Nandita Gurjar, Head of HR, Infosys.

Infosys was recently given a prize by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for “Best Employer for Disabled”. As many as 171 disabled persons work in Infosys across India. Although this is a good number compared with others, it is still only 0.012 per cent of its BPO workforce.

With increasing attrition rates and a talent crunch, companies, especially BPOs, are employing more disabled persons.

But the larger picture still far from perfect. While success stories reflect a glimmer of hope, the truth is that several qualified people like Mr. Dey are left out in the cold. As he points out: “At the CII Disability Forum seminars, all companies promise to recruit disabled people. They promptly forget about it after the seminars.”

“Attitudes need to change. Companies may be open but recruiters still make the wrong assumptions about our efficiency,” says Ankit Jindal, a visually impaired person working at a leading software company.

“There is still a lot of resistance in all companies to recruit visually impaired persons who are well-trained in software and can function like everyone else,” says Mr. Jindal.

Javed G., a wheelchair user and senior associate at Tata Consultancy Services, says: “Honestly, it was very difficult at first. Recruiters see us as liability. They think we are unproductive and so they cannot afford to hire us.”

A recent World Bank report titled People with Disabilities in India says that while the Indian Government’s policy is good, it lacks in implementation.

China has over 1,600 welfare factories whose staff comprise 60 to 70 per cent of the workforce.

“There is no legislation that makes it mandatory for companies to be inclusive. Often, they employ only minimally disabled persons so they can declare that it is being done,” says Rama Chari of Diversity in Equal Opportunity Centre, a non-governmental organisation.

The People with Disabilities Act 1995 recommends that the Government provide incentives to the private sector to ensure each firm has a 5 per cent reservation for disabled people. Although the Centre formulated a quota policy, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka are the only States with a draft policy in place.