[AI] FW: Discrimination in the IT industry - what next ?

Sudhir R (NeSTIT) sudhir.r at nestgroup.net
Tue Jul 10 23:37:31 EDT 2007


Sorry to keep bothering you with  the issue of discriminatory practices in the IT industry.  But, discrimination is discrimination whether by banks, insurance companies, airlines, civil services or educational institutions and I feel we need to take both reactive and pro-active action.

Can I assume that the silence of the group to my earlier mail suggesting a few courses of action to be a sign of consensus and move ahead with  them ?  I would appeal to all of you to share your views, concerns, suggestions etc in how to proceed with this matter which affects more people than we may expect.

At the same time, IT sector is too valuable a source of employment for the disabled and we need to proceed cautiously in the matter.  However, we cannot leave the issue to individual resources to sort out with their employers as they often lack the legal literacy, negotiating power and stamina to fight alone.  , Just as the group has reacted together to discriminations in other fields, we need to do something in this matter also.

If you feel the matter is too sensitive to be discussed on the list, please let me have your take in the matter privately at sudhir.r at nestgroup.net.

Thanks and rgds

M: 98 472 76 126  

-----Original Message-----
From: accessindia-bounces at accessindia.org.in
[mailto:accessindia-bounces at accessindia.org.in]On Behalf Of Sudhir R
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2007 3:01 PM
To: accessindia at accessindia.org.in
Subject: [AI] Discrimination in the IT industry - what next ?

Hi folks !

Thanks to Subramani, the Deccan Herald of Saturday, July 7, 2007, has carried an article exposing the discriminatory practices followed by some IT companies against the disabled.  

Now that the issue is in the open, here are a few courses of action that we may contemplate :

	a)	Write letters to the Editor voicing our protests.  That will incentivise them to carry the issue further.  The mail id is letters at deccanherald.co.in <mailto:letters at deccanherald.co.in>.

	b)	Bring the issue to the notice of industry bodies like CII, Nasscom etc.  May be, someone like Asif can play the role of our advocate in this.

	c)	Bring the report to the notice of the PR managers of the companies concerned.  Companies are usually sensitive to adverse reports appearing in the mainstream media.

	d)	Take up the issue with authorities like CCPD.  This may have to be done by an NGO preferably.

We should bear in mind that our actions should not harm the interests of our friends who are on contract and also not result in IT companies cold-shouldering the disabled in the future.  So, kindly reflect on these courses of action and give your suggestions.  We will take action on all options (excepting the first) only after mutual discussions and coming to a consensus.

Pl give your considered opinions.


M: 098 472 76 126  

» Detailed Story

Darkness at end of the tunnel

By R Sudhir

Indian mindset has been historically biased against the people with special needs, and, despite all technological and managerial advancement this bias still
persists in the Indian IT sector.

Habib, 22, is a disillusioned youngster. The visually challenged from Kozhikode, Kerala, who is doing his Masters in English Literature at the local University,
had experienced the awakening of a new hope just a couple of months back. All that this hardworking lad had ever wanted to achieve in life was to get himself
a steady, teaching job in one of the numerous colleges; a job that would have ensured him a comfortable living, dignity in the society and the security
of assured employment.

However, a seminar that he had attended in May at Kochi had changed all that.  Resource persons from across the country, most of them visually challenged,
described how companies in the IT and ITES sectors were opening their doors to persons with disability. The IT majors, facing a severe shortage of qualified
human resources to meet the scorching pace of the business, were ready to recruit disabled youngsters if they had a graduation, were computer literate
and had good communication skills in English.

Habib intended to finish his course, move to Bangalore, get properly trained in facing interviews and make it to one of the numerous national and transnational
companies that were holding regular walk-in interviews for Persons With Disabilities.

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But, the dreams of Habib and several others have been shattered in a matter of months.  Stories of discriminatory practices followed by these leading votaries
of 'equal opportunity employment practices' started surfacing in the virtual communities of the disabled on the Web.  Initially the rumours were speculative,
but soon, the silent ones at the receiving end of such shameful practices started speaking about their experiences in these "progressive" corporate entities.

The charges levelled against these companies are more or less uniform.  First, and the most serious, is about the actual nature of employment.  Companies
are known to keep their disabled resources as contract employees for years together, often renewing their half-yearly contracts only on the last day. 
While contract employment per se is nothing new to the IT industry, what makes this discriminatory is how these companies regularise the services of the
non-disabled resources.

Says Kala, 26, a University gold medallist in MA (History), who has been working on a contract mode with a software company in Bangalore," The company seems
to have no intention of regularising our services.  It is so frustrating to see one's peers and juniors being taken on rolls merely because they are not

Interestingly, Kala's manager is quite pleased with her performance, but, cites unwritten directives from the top echelons as reason for not confirming
her services.

According to Suman, another visually challenged executive who has put in almost two years with a global IT giant that claims HR diversity as one of its
many guiding philosophies, she has been told not to compare her contract terms with those of her sighted peers and juniors who have been confirmed and
are moving up the career path.
Being a contract resource, she is also denied promotional avenues, access to the rich on-line learning resources on the company's intranet etc. When she
confronted her manager to know why she was not getting confirmed, the manager explained it was part of their global strategy to keep the headcount low.
 "But then, the contract system should apply universally," points out this disillusioned girl.

But, sadly, there is little that anyone can do in this matter since the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation)
Act, 1995 that gives protection of the rights of the disabled, does not apply to companies in the Indian private sector.  The office of the Chief Commissioner
for PWDs at the Centre and those of State level Commissioners are largely ceremonial posts that lack real authority.  Legal experts say that courts can't
also interfere in this matter since these contracts would be construed as voluntary and bilateral agreements.

At the end of the day, it is sad but true that the more the things change, the more they remain the same.  Indian mindset has been historically biased against
the people with special needs, and, despite all technological and managerial advancement this bias still persists in the Indian IT sector.  Will there
ever be light at the end of the tunnel for the persons in the gray zone?

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