Rattled by layoffs, Indian IT workers grapple with fear, fraud and isolation | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Rattled by layoffs, Indian IT workers grapple with fear, fraud and isolation

Unprepared to deal with the insecurity of losing a job around which they built their lives and identities, IT workers are either shutting out the world or crying out for intervention.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2017 10:47 IST
Snigdha Poonam
IT workers gather for a protest against layoffs in Bengaluru.
IT workers gather for a protest against layoffs in Bengaluru.(HT Photo)

Anupama Chandran can go on and on about how she is feeling these days: “I feel stupid. I feel miserable. I am devastated.” On April 1, the Bengaluru-based IT professional with 18 years’ experience paid a placement firm, Vision Profile, Rs 1 lakh for a job at IT services company Cognizant; within hours, she knew she had been conned.

“I had taken a three-year break after having a child. When I came back this year, the scene was so bad that I didn’t mind paying that amount of money for a guaranteed job,” she said.

After going through two “precise, sophisticated” interviews on phone for over six hours and making payments totaling Rs 1 lakh towards “processing formalities”, she sent a series of emails with qualifying documents to an email address containing the word Cognizant. They came bouncing back to her inbox in a cascade of horror.

Read more: How job loss, insecurity are driving IT professionals towards labour unions

Four months on, she still hasn’t told her family about it. She did file a complaint with the cyber cell of Bengaluru police after going through dozens of online complaints against the same website.

Layoffs and job insecurity have led a horde of IT professionals to the edge of desperation. After his “forced resignation” from Wipro, Manoj Pandey, 38, spends his days looking for a job even if it pays half his last salary. “But there are currently 60,000 others looking for similar jobs. Every time I come across a posting, I am alerted that 250 others are seeing it and a 100 have applied for it.”

“We have been seeing a lot of cases of IT workers falling for job scams recently,” said S Ravi, an assistant commissioner with Bengaluru’s cyber police, which usually takes on cases of job frauds involving a large amount of money. “We had six cases in 2016, and so far in 2017 we already have 32 cases,” he added.

In many of these cases, IT workers paid anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 18 lakh for a job abroad. Hyderabad’s cyber police say online job fraud is now the most commonly reported crime there.

The spurt in job frauds isn’t the only indication of how vulnerable India’s IT professionals currently feel. “Asked to leave after seven years at Wipro”, Manjunath Kumar, 42, wants nothing to do with IT. “I will go back to my village in Ballari and get into gau-seva,” he said. Internet forums are abuzz with worried software professionals debating theirs as well as the industry’s future.

Entirely unprepared to deal with the insecurity of losing a job around which they built their lives and identities, IT workers are either shutting out the world or crying out for intervention.

“They don’t share their feelings with each other. In one case, someone called to say his apartment colleague may be going through depression.”

“Between June 29 and July 1, we hosted a phone session called Fired to Fired Up. 260 people called in from across IT capitals and 800 got in touch over chat. 60% of the calls were about layoffs. 57% people had not told their families about it. Some of them continue to dress up for work in the morning and go sit in a park,” says Puneet Manuja, a coordinator for Your Dost, a multi-platform counselling centre based in Bengaluru.

“A 25-year-old man who was fired from his startup had thoughts like defaming the company, spreading rumours, playing with company data,” Sushma Hebbar, one of their 900 counsellors, said about a recent session.

Some of them are focussing on fixing their luck. “Earlier, say only 60% of my clients were from IT, but now it’s more like 80 or 90 percent,” says Sheelaa Bajaj, a well-known tarot card reader and numerologist in Bengaluru. “A lot of them want to know if their job is at risk or if they will find another job.”

Kumara Swamy, an IBM employee and president of the Information Technology Employees Union, doesn’t always know what to say to “impacted” workers who call him. “They don’t share their feelings with each other. In one case, someone called to say his apartment colleague may be going through depression. The thing is IT workers had so much respect in society. Now they have personal loans, housing loans, but they may not have a job.”