The crisis of the Indian IT industry has disrupted the lives of thousands and dominated headlines for months. While the exact number of employees illegally retrenched by the opaque industry remains unclear, media reports indicate around 50,000 might lose their jobs by the end of the year. For an entire generation that grew up seeing jobs in the sector as the ultimate path to a prosperous life, the past two-odd years have been a rude shock, as arbitrary bouts of retrenchment have been implemented by one IT major after another. Many employees, have been deeply disheartened by this approach by what once seemed to be the future pillars of the Indian economy. However, the question of framing the right response has remained unanswered.
It is in this context that representatives of organisations working for the welfare of IT employees from across the country met at Delhi to discuss the crisis faced by the industry, as well as future trends. Representatives of organisations from Delhi (NCR region), West Bengal, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala as well as those involved in the start-up industry, and representatives of trade union movements, attended the meeting that ended with the call for greater coordination among organisations working in the field, as well as deeper interventions in the industry in the wake of mass illegal retrenchments that have put the livelihoods of thousands at risk.
The meet comprised three sessions – on the structural changes in the IT industry, automation tools and the experience of the IT professionals' organisations in various States and the path ahead. In the first session, the participants deliberated on the drastic changes in the IT industry, especially in the past five years. Amid the disruptive impact of automation, the discussants talked about how the traditional service-based models of the Indian IT industry are dated with the impact being borne by the employees who are being retrenched in an arbitrary manner with non-transparent appraisal processes.
In the second session, the participants looked at the impact of automation tools on the industry. While agreeing on the inevitability of the automation process, they noted that the bulk of the impact would fall on the large number of people who are engaged in mid-level jobs in the industry, especially those working on tools. While a few new opportunities are coming up, the overall negative trend in terms of jobs in IT majors continues. The adverse impact of cloud-based technologies on the current Indian software outsourcing models, as well as the social impact of job loss were also discussed.
The third session began with an overview of the legal provisions and recourse employees have/ Participants from various States talked about their experiences, including on interventions in various tech majors including TCS, CTS, Tech Mahindra, L&T, HCL and Snapdeal. A key area of focus was also on the issue of gender in the context of the crisis, where women employees often suffer the brunt of the retrenchments, in addition to issues of sexual harassment. A discussion was also held on the nature of rules and regulations in Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
Representatives of Forum of IT Professionals (forit.in), Knowledge Professionals Forum (kpftn.org), Maharashtra IT Professionals Forum , IT and Services Employees Forum (ITSEF), IT and ITeS Employees Centre (itecentre.co.in), Progressive Techies, Prathidhwani and the IT Professionals Welfare Association attended the meeting.