People who know me have been noticing something very strange about me these days- I have been wearing a towel over my shoulders wherever I go to. People who don’t know me have been staring at me in bewilderment. For, I work in one of the leading IT firms, and the towel doesn’t go too well with the so called professional clothes. “Why are you wearing that towel? You look like a labourer,” exclaimed one of my friends. “Am I not one?” I retorted. During my brief tryst with the IT industry and an equally long duration as an activist, I’ve come to terms with reality!
Yes, IT employees are paid handsomely. But, compared to whom? The IT bubble had burst, and so have the lifestyles of thousands of IT professionals. When I was about to join my undergraduation, getting an IT job is a dream come true for many. However, the entire scenario changed within a very short span. Towards the end of my undergraduation itself, I could notice a difference in dreams and attitudes of most of my peers. Most of them didn’t want an IT job. Some of them preferred the higher paying jobs in the public sector to these apparently affluent IT jobs. Couple of them were left with no other choice.
Now, putting aside the fact that some jobs in the public sector are strikingly higher paying than those in the IT industry, there are several other factors that make the life of an IT employee relatively difficult. I said relatively difficult because I understand that the problems of an IT employee are trivial as against those faced by the quarter million farmers who’ve committed suicide, probably another quarter million of them contemplating suicide, those millions living in abject poverty (even according to the Planning Commission’s lowered limit) etc. Still, the problems faced by an IT employee are significant in their own sense, especially given the common social perception that an IT employee belongs to the elite of the society, both socially and economically.
We are some of the most exploited people, being paid peanuts compared to what the company earns for the work we do and for the number of additional hours of work we put in without even being paid for working overtime. We are set some targets, made to slog to achieve them with the fear of not getting an encouraging pay hike during the appraisals, and are under the constant threat of being fired for being unable to meet the employer’s expectations. One of my friends had been working even during the weekends for the past couple of months, which easily makes his total working hours per week more than the regular weekly working hours. The mental agony caused is best understood by many other such people who’ve been toiling day in and day out, and probably not by most people around us who still believe that we lead a rosy life! There’s another acquaintance of mine who’d recently lost his job despite being awarded the best employee, and still, there are no questions to be asked! If you are still not convinced, realize that there are thousands in various IT destinations who work for a meagre five thousand rupees every month, whilst Wahid, a cab driver I’d recently interacted with, Manga, our maid, Raju, a small tea shop owner in my neighborhood, and Mustafa, the owner of a small departmental store, all earn more than some of my brothers and sisters working in the IT industry! It’s not to belittle them or their livelihood, but just to make people around us realize that we’re no different.
It’s time for a change folks- in the way our surroundings see us, and in the way we see our surroundings! We’re not affluent, we’re just ordinary middle class people. We don’t flaunt our wealth, we haven’t got much to do so. We don’t lead a rosy life, we don’t have one. All we can boast of is probably the comforts of air conditioning (which are again intended for the computers and not for us). Probably, it’s time all of us wear towels, if that’s what changes people’s perception about us and our perception about ourselves. Or probably, it’s time we too have unions- to demand our rightful share and fight for our rights.