If there is any conscience still left!
Every time we hear it, it wrecks our conscience. How long would this continue? How many victims still? Imagine the trauma that she would have faced. We fellow humans at Forum for IT employees share the grief of the 23 year old woman BPO employee sexually assaulted on Saturday at Bengaluru and we condemn the crime. The victim after finishing her evening shift had boarded a private cab around 9:45 PM to reach her PG in HSR Layout. The cab flew past the destination and to a secluded spot where the driver and the cleaner took turns in sexually assaulting her by threatening at a knife-edge. This incident brings grim remembrance of the Delhi paramedical student, Nirbhaya of 2012 who was sexually assaulted in a moving bus and lost her life later. The nation in a sense of outrage came together crying and protesting for her on to the streets. Nothing seems to have changed since then or before Nirbhaya. Vulnerability is the position that a woman still finds herself in the society. Looking upon her only as a source of men’s sexual emancipation is still strongly resident in this country. Is woman’s body a mere sexual object? Various social factors ranging from “beauty products” to “religious restrictions” to “item numbers” confine woman to a sexual product and time and again infuse the thought that her body is a luring advertisement of sex in to the “collective conscience” of the society. How sick is it to feel that this very chauvinistic society remains mute spectator allowing violence to a woman’s body. Is this brutal attack of BPO employee, an individual problem meted out to her? If we choose to say yes and move forward, then it means we have just contributed towards the next attack on a woman somewhere else. This is an attack on the entire womankind. This should be seen as an attack on woman’s freedom to work that she is trying to attain after centuries of household slavery.
Out of 6779 sexual offence incidents in Karnataka in the year 2014, 1324 have been incidents of sexual assaults and 104 such sexual assaults have happened in Bengaluru alone. It has been ten years since the gruesome sexual assault and murder of Pratibha Srikant Murthy who was working for HP’s BPO at Bengaluru. The crime was committed by the company’s cab driver named Shiva Kumar who was later punished with life imprisonment till death. The incident made Bengaluru come to a standstill. Karnataka police lodged FIR on then HP’s Managing Director Som Mittal for not providing adequate security to their woman employee and made more than 1500 IT and BPO firms in and around Bengaluru mandatory for their drivers of cabs to register with the nearest police station. During February of last year, decomposed body of 23 year old Uma Maheshwari, who was an employee with TCS, Chennai was found after ten days within close proximity of the company’s premises. Social organizations protested with hundreds of people joining them and ensured safety improvements for women employees working in that area. There have been various protests demanding security to women employees and they get prominence during tragedies. The victim who was working at BPO Company in Bengaluru could have avoided such an ordeal on Saturday if the company had provided an official transportation with escort to her home.
McKinsey Global Institute’s report puts India at the bottom when it comes to equality at work (aggregate Gender Parity Score – 0.30) and reports that women account for only 23% to 24% of the total Indian workforce. Insensitivity towards issues related to women in workplace is also due to diminished representation of women in workplace. The sense of unity that was widely prevalent amongst people during schools, colleges is not found to be widely existent amongst the IT and ITES or actually the corporate workforce. Employees of other industries like manufacturing and public sectors exhibit this sense of oneness whenever they are persecuted. IT and ITES industry thrives on individualization of employees. Employees of IT and ITES sector are denied of their fundamental work rights and are employed as modern day slaves. An employee facing victimization in this sector has to face it all by him/her and corporate managements’ suppress the voices within the walls of the air-conditioned conference rooms. Those companies for whom these women worked for and lost lives due to lack of adequate security would have found replacements and those jobs would have been completed without affecting client delivery. But such a replacement cannot be found for the loved ones of the deceased. Smart phones with safety applications will not give us security. It is we people who have to come together and fight to win our rights.
In solidarity with the woman BPO employee, Forum for IT Employees, (F.I.T.E. – A Trade Union for IT and ITES employees) Bengaluru Chapter is organizing a human chain at Electronic City, Venue – Near Toll Gate on 9th of October – Friday at 5:30 PM. Let us pledge that we contribute towards rise of womankind.
We place the following as demands to the State Government,
- Conduct speedy trial against the perpetrators and render timely justice to the victim.
- File FIR against the management of the BPO Company for not having provided security arrangements and transportation to their women employees.
- Take immediate action against all the IT and ITES companies which violates security measures for women employees.
- Ensure police patrolling from Electronic City to Silk Board and ensure strict monitoring of private cabs plying in that region during weekends and nights.
- Appropriate security arrangements and police personnel should be deployed in the routes especially where working women stay in PG, rooms and hostels.
- Regulate transportation of BMTC government buses with installation of charts in bus stops announcing the arrival and departure of buses. Ensure that they stick to time so that women can plan their travel especially during night times.
- Involve members of Trade Unions, Social Organizations and working women from companies in discussions and meetings between police officers and company managements.
- Investigate if every company has formed an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ and investigate if the employees are aware of such committees in their offices.
- Create emergency contact numbers to solely report violence against women directly to the government.
- Implement the recommendations of the Justice J.S Verma committee that emphasizes on Police reforms, judicial reforms, political reforms, changes in system of examination of sexually assaulted victims.
- Remove functioning of liquor shops that serve as nuisance not just to the employees but also to the general public.
Demands towards managements of IT and ITES companies
- Do not enforce women working in general shifts to work beyond 7:00 PM.
- Ensure pick up and drop facilities with security escort personnel for women employees after 7:00 PM and before 8:00 AM during weekdays.
- Ensure pick up and drop facilities with security escort personnel for women employees irrespective of time whenever they are called for work during weekends.
- Frequently check the conduct of your cab drivers. Deem that harassment happening to your employees via your cab drivers as your company’s responsibility and take preventive measures.
- Instruct your employees to board the cabs only if they ply with company identified drivers with ID cards.
- Institute Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committees that investigates in a confidential and in an unbiased manner to the complaints made by women employees. Ensure that the employees of your organization are aware of such committees by frequent awareness programmes.