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Lockdown: IT Firms Can Reboot From Monday, Says Centre. But 50% Workforce Unlikely

Bengaluru: 

India’s IT and ITES companies can start work with up to 50 per cent strength from April 20, the centre has said. But that does by no means indicates that half of the IT/BT workforce will be back at their workstations immediately.

Ahead of the partial lifting of the lockdown, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan held a meeting with IT/BT firm chiefs to discuss the partial lifting of the lockdown.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Managing Director of Biocon raised several points at the meeting.

“This is a very important meeting. From the 20th of April there will be some amount of economic activity. As you know the IT/BT sector is an essential sector. The pass system introduced by the police has worked well. They should be extended. Additional passes may need to be introduced because of the relaxation… We should not allow too many private cars in the next stage of relaxation. All companies who want employees on site should contact our BMTC buses,” she said.

She also said testing booths are needed in office campuses and called for a “strict protocol” if someone tests positive.

“Shutting down the entire company has a negative impact,” she added.

Ashwath Narayan responded saying that the issue of passes would not be there after April 20.

“Regarding protocol, if someone tests positive in a company – do we shut down or just screen or sanitise? We will work out protocols. We have so far been working out for residential, not commercial areas. They want to avoid private vehicles. Sterilisation and sanitation should be down. Internet service should be uninterrupted as well,” he said.

Mr Narayan also urged companies to not go for layoffs. “Graduation or salary cuts should be taken up to not affect companies,” he said. Many people have lost their jobs during the lockdown that began on March 25 and was extended till May 3.

He also added that companies may not be able to immediately mobilise 50 per cent of workforce – that may take weeks.

Industry body NASSCOM’s president Debjani Ghosh told NDTV that she agreed with a phased re-introduction of the on-site workforce.

She said, “Industry leaders agree that we have to put people first and do the right thing. At NASSCOM we are suggesting a phased strategy with no more than 10 to 15 per cent in Phase 1. Maybe up to 50 per cent in the next 2-3 months. That gives us time to prepare the protocols to ensure we have a safe workplace. Social distancing from commute to the workspace to cafeteria management. A lot of people believe that after May 3 it is going to be business as usual. And it is not. We have to learn how to live with and manage the virus.”

The coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we live and will change the way we work. Possibly for the foreseeable future. And India’s IT industry is well aware of that reality.

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