IT employee kills himself due to 'job insecurity'. Alarming enough?
A 25-year-old software engineer from Andhra Pradesh joined a Pune tech company three days ago. On July 12, he jumped from his four-storeyed hotel. In his parting note, Gopikrishna Durgaprasad wrote: "In IT there is no job security. I'm worried about my family." The Indian IT industry is in bad shape. Along with it, it is taking down the aspirations of millions of youths.
The bigger it is, the harder it falls
IT was once the Indian youths' dream sector, but after years of rise, the decline has started. Reports of mass-layoffs have circulated since a few years, but have gotten worse. For the first time, the middle management is being affected - in Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and elsewhere. According to the Forum for IT Employees, 60,000 employees have been removed in the last few months.
What led to this dismal scenario?
Various factors have worked together to bring the industry to this low: a disastrous financial quarter, a volatile global labor market, and Donald Trump's H-1B policy, which is forcing companies to invest more in local talent at the cost of Indians.
The top brass has even fixed quotas for firing
Companies are rating employees as "poor performers", then asking them to either resign or be terminated. According to a former Cognizant employee, who says he was rated low by someone he had never even worked with, even those in charge of firing are bound by orders from the top: they are given quotas, say out of 10 people, they have to rate two poorly.
The Mahindra case: Employees' pleas fall on HR's deaf ears
It is also about how an employee is let go. Recently, an audio clip of a conversation between an HR official at Mahindra and an employee was leaked. The HR executive is heard demanding the employee's papers by next morning. When he pleads, she tells him she has the authority to ask him to leave the same day too. Chairman Anand Mahindra later apologized.
But for the first time, there's an employees' union
Employees are fighting back. The first formal IT employees' union has been formed: the Communist New Democratic Labor Front launched an IT Employees (ITE) in January. Even this took a lot of struggle due to a "sustained misinformation campaign by companies that Indian labor laws are not applicable to the sector." The FITE has also approached the labor commission of Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
'Everything is fine': The industry continues to assure employees
The industry denies such reports. Sangeeta Gupta, NASSCOM VP, says it would be impossible to hide the trend "if you're a publicly listed company". IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the sector was actually hiring. A research by CIEL HR Services claims 50% of the 2,00,000 employees expected to be fired in the next two years will be re-absorbed once they are re-skilled.
Is there any way of making this better?
But what use are such assurances for the hundreds who have been robbed of their income source in a blink? Gopikrishna was desperate. He cut his wrist 25 times. Then he jumped. Now he's dead. And even if the fired employees are re-hired, will it be any better? "I could get another job now, and they could fire me just as easily," says Sujoy.