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Chennai water scarcity: IT companies ask employees to 'work from home'

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While Chennai continues to suffer from issues pertaining to water scarcity, several smaller IT organisations in the city have asked their employees to work from home.

The recent announcement, which has raised the eyebrows of the common people in the city, was supposedly made to reduce the usage of water.

Also as a damage control measure, many of the companies have reduced the number of restrooms in their offices. Moreover, the cafeterias have started using disposable cutlery items that does not require to be washed.

Superficially, it may appear that the companies are trying to handle the issue in a convincing way. But, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, say the employees.

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The ‘work from home’ option has always been there and there is nothing surprising in the fact that the companies are asking their employees to opt for that, they say.

“The reason why they resorted to such an option is to use the water sufficiently for their resources like servers, air conditioners, restrooms etc, so that they can be maintained properly. Even if the employees work from home, the places where their homes and apartments are located, also witnesses water scarcity. The companies do not realise this,” says Vinod AJ, general secretary, Forum for IT Employees.

However, only 30 to 40 per cent of the employees are asked to work from home, he adds.

It must be noted that majority of the IT companies in the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) have facilities like water-recycling plants and many of them are designed with rainwater harvesting systems.

Shyam, president, IT Employees Wing, New Democratic Labour Front says though water scarcity is evident across the state, there is enough water to run the business and by asking the employees to work from home they are exaggerating the problem.

“There is no official announcement made by the MNC companies like Wipro. These are just the smaller IT companies that does not have recycling or rainwater harvesting facilities decided to take such a measure,” says Shyam.

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“Many of the MNCs get water supplied by the lorries. Some years ago, when the lorry strike happened, those companies asked their employees to take leave since they were not able to handle the water problem. If the public believe that the MNCs are taking away their share of water and starts trying to stop the water lorries, then the issue will turn severe,” Shyam adds.

Though the companies realised the magnitude of the problem, none of them invoked the ‘Business Continuity Plan’ (BCP) till now to handle this ‘disaster’, says Alagunambi Welkin, general secretary, Union of IT and ITES Employees.

“Every MNC has their own BCPs. It is a plan devised to handle any unexpected disasters and natural calamities like flood, etc. A considerable amount of funds and alternative resources must be allocated for the plan, so that if there is any emergency situations they can implement the plan. By doing that, they can control the damages. But none of the MNCs till now consider water scarcity as a disaster,” he says.

Welkin added that many of the companies are also forcing their employees to shift to other cities, like Hyderabad and Bengaluru, in view of the water issue.

If the Tamil Nadu government had implemented ‘Information Communication Technology Policy 2018’, which advocates for ‘Green IT Parks’, this kind of problem could have been averted in the IT companies, he said.

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