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Coronavirus | Tell IT firms to issue work from home directive, says FITE

Safety concerns: The Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park in Hinjewadi houses 120-odd IT companies.

Safety concerns: The Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park in Hinjewadi houses 120-odd IT companies.   | Photo Credit: Dhananjay Helwade

Employees’ forum says only 30% of IT park staff working from home due to lack of laptops

With some staff members of IT firms in Pune showing symptoms similar to that of COVID-19, the city chapter of the Forum for IT Employees (FITE) has urged the Pune District Collector and Guardian Minister to direct IT companies to make it mandatory for all employees to work from home.

Engineers who are part of the FITE claim that only 30% of the total IT workforce at the 120-odd companies located in Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park at Hinjewadi — most of them top management — is working from home as there are not enough laptops for everyone.

Lives at risk

The forum has alleged that the larger firms, by not making provisions for all their staff members to work from home, are putting employees’ lives at risk.

“While some firms, notably the smaller ones, have issued clear ‘work from home’ directives, the larger ones have left it to their employees to take a call. Only 30% of the total IT workforce in Hinjewadi, which includes senior management like project managers, critical lead resources, and support personnel, are being given laptops as companies don’t have the necessary infrastructure,” said Pavanjit Mane, president, FITE.

He urged the district authorities, the Guardian Minister or the Health Minister to make it incumbent upon IT firms, especially the bigger ones, to issue directives to their employees to work from home.

Earlier this week, one company from the Hinjewadi IT park and another from Magarpatta, had evacuated and sealed some offices after a couple of employees exhibited symptoms of the infection.

Sense of fear

“There is a real sense of paranoia pervading the Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park. An employee working in Phase 1 had shown COVID-19-like symptoms. So, are companies in Phase 2 waiting for the virus to infect their employees before permitting them to work from home? If so, they are putting employees at risk,” said FITE member Pravin Khajindar.

Gaurav Sisodia, another FITE member, said most companies have stopped the biometric thumb system of attendance and taken other precautionary measures. However, he said, “The decisions being taken are voluntary, and precautions are on an individual basis. Unless there is a clear indication on part of authorities making it compulsory for IT companies to follow certain stringent guidelines, employees continue to face the spectre of exposure,” he said.

Lack of preparedness

Another software engineer, requesting anonymity, said a larger question was IT firms’ total lack of preparedness to deal with disasters, something that came into sharp relief when the district was battered by heavy showers in August last year.

“At the time of excess rains last year, there was a similar ambivalence in instructions given by IT firms. While some categorically directed employees to work from home, others remained equivocal, thus putting the lives of employees in jeopardy, many of whom were forced to make a harrowing commute to Hinjewadi,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Mane said there were practical problems in issuing a ‘work from home’ directive as well, given that a number of projects were being executed on the Agile framework, in which team members have to sit next each other.

He said the frequency of internal travel in the IT fraternity is also high, and as a result the monitoring would have to be tight.

“Furthermore, as many among the IT fraternity live in residential complexes, the possibility of exposure is very high. Recently, an IT engineer returned from the UAE. While he was checked at the airport, there is still a palpable fear among neighbours and co-workers. In such situations, a clear ‘work from home’ directive goes a long way in assuaging fear and panic,” Mr. Mane said.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:55:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/tell-it-firms-to-issue-work-from-home-directive/article31064832.ece

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