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Infosys employee corona virus positive; unease at IT parks

Geeta Nair

There is rising unease in the IT parks of Pune where IT and ITeS companies are continuing to operate from their offices in the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak. Police have been called in to the IT parks at Hinjewadi and Magarpatta by employees on a couple of occasions in the last one week. The IT/ITeS companies have started work from home for a section of their employees but continue to have some of their operations at the IT parks with employees being asked to continue work.

Tension is set to rise further with Infosys reporting one positive case of Covid-19 in Pune on Sunday at their facility in the Hinjewadi IT Park Phase II. Last week, an employee at the Magarpatta IT Park was reported to be a suspect case which led to shutdown of the office floors and panic across the park. The two major IT hubs in Pune employs more than 5 lakh people.

Infosys on Sunday told its employees in Pune that the case was detected and they were working with health authorities on contact-tracing after which they were communicating with potential contacts for 14-day self quarantine. Infosys said they were closing in SDB 1, SBD 4 and FC 1 for fumigation and sanitisation till Tuesday evening. Further, the entire campus is being sanitised and fumigated, the company told employees.

In a statement released by the company, they said, "We can confirm that an Infosys employee in Pune has tested positive for Covid-19. The employee is under medical supervision and we have asked colleagues who were in contact with the employee to self-quarantine themselves and closely monitor their health. We have vacated two buildings where this employee worked, and these will remain closed for deep cleaning and sanitisation. As a precautionary measure, we are also sanitising the entire campus and have sent detailed communication to the employees working from that campus. Infosys has taken and will continue to take necessary precautions to keep our employees and communities safe."

While work from home orders have been issued, not all IT/ITeS companies have followed the orders with many of the employees continuing to work in the large IT companies located in the IT parks of Hinjewadi, Magarpatta and Yerwada, Pawanjeet Mane, president of the Federation of IT Employees Pune, said.

Mane said IT companies were not being honest about the number of employees at work in their premises and are under reporting the numbers to police and district administration. We are reaching out to the district collector and police to ensure that IT companies are following the directives failing which action should be taken against them, Mane said.

FITE pointed out that all of them work in air-conditioned environment which will make it easier to spread the virus so the government should urge all IT/ITeS companies to let all employees work from home. The National Information Technology Employees Sena (NITES) president, Raghunath Kuchik, has written to the divisional commissioner, Deepak Mhaisekar, asking him to take action against Infosys. NITES said the employees who got infected worked on a floor that had around 300 employees and he said the campus has thousands of employees and they were at risk of getting infected, he said. According to NITES, employees are faced with job loss threats in the IT companies if they do not report to work and under these conditions it was being tough on employees and the government intervention was needed.

The IT/ITeS industry has been asking for them to be exempted from Section 144 and be considered essential services. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has been pushing the government to consider inclusion of e-commerce and ITeS as essential services ad this gains importance as more and more states have imposed lockdowns with the spread of Covid-19.

Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, CII said a recent advisory issued by the central government had requested the states to enforce Work from Home for private sector employees except for those working in emergency/essential services. "While CII understands the need for social distancing, the criticality of timely provision of needs to be recognised. There is therefore merit in including these industries under essential services," he said.

In order to ensure that the IT-ITeS industry is able to provide continuous support services to sectors such as government, healthcare and insurance, banking, transportation appropriate directions need to be issued by both the central and state governments, CII has suggested.

Under the current circumstance, the e-commerce sector is playing a crucial role, providing buyers doorstep access to daily necessities so CII recommends that e-commerce shipments and deliveries be treated as an essential activity, which may be exempted from any travel/transport restrictions.