Murder of female techie a concern

The murder of a young female engineer on the office campus in Pune of the high-profile software behemoth Infosys, and the response of the government machinery and the company thus far, is a cause for extreme concern. In what appears to be a thoughtless practice, 23-year-old systems engineer, Rasila Raju O P, was asked to come to the office on a Sunday and work all alone between 2 pm and 11 pm. As it turned out, Rasila apparently had a tiff with her supposed murderer, security guard Bhaban Saikia earlier, and threatened to report on him. Rasila’s helpless situation on that fateful Sunday must have emboldened Saikia to make advances to her, and when she resisted, he appears to have attacked her and strangulated her with a computer cable.

Saikia was arrested the very next day, thanks to the modern technology, in Mumbai, trying to flee to his hometown in Assam, but several questions remain unanswered. It’s clear that Rasila, who was just one year old in Infosys, was a victim of the company’s greed and callous disregard for the security of a female employee. Its subsequent statements that it would “re-examine the employee deployment roasters and bring in an outside expert consultant to review the security measures” and that it would “increase deployment of alarm buttons in all office buildings, as well as beef up rapid response teams”, do not befit a company of Infosys’ standards. These feeble explanations were in response to a backlash from its two lakh-strong employee force. It took the company almost a week to announce a compensation of Rs 1 crore to Rasika’s family and offer a job to a competent next of kin of the deceased.

For over two decades now, the Indian software industry has been the engine of growth contributing substantial amounts to the Indian economy and it is no surprise that the Indian government has treated it with kid-gloves. It is high time that the Union government took a serious look at some of the employee-related practices followed in the software sector. The government needs to get into a dialogue with the software industry on issues like labour practices which don’t conform to international standards, the working hours and the safety issues, which get relegated to the background. Given the uncertainties of the international market, especially in the US under President Donald Trump, both the Government of India and the software industry need to gear up to meet domestic as well as international challenges.

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