The Central government has permitted techies of all IT firms to work from home till July 31 to protect them from the coronavirus spread and ensure social distancing, an official said on Tuesday.
This was announced by Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad in a video conference with the concerned ministers and officials of different states.
Earlier this option was available till April end. Industry body NASSCOM had urged the government to come up with a stable timeline and policy rather than a month-by-month extension. Prasad also told the state ministers that work from home should become the new norm.
The latest development holds particular significance for Karnataka, the country’s tech hub which houses a significant number of IT professionals.
“Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad has agreed to state Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan’s requisition to allow thousands of techies to work from home (WFH) till July 31, although the latter had asked to extend it up to March 2021,” the official told IANS here.
Prasad also agreed to hold a separate meeting with IT honchos through video conferencing soon for discussing the problems arising out of the pandemic induced lockdown and travel suspension across the country and overseas.
“Prasad also assured Narayan to reconsider his request for extending the work for home (WFH) beyond July 31 after reviewing the situation,” said the official.
Even before the Central government enforced the 21-day nationwide first phase of the lockdown since March 25 and extended it up to May 3 from April 15, the Karnataka government had directed hundreds of IT firms across the state, especially in this tech city, to allow its employees to work from home to prevent them from getting infected by the deadly disease till March 31, initially.
Prasad also said a that national strategy committee would be set up to frame guidelines and solutions to fight the pandemic crisis, which disrupted the resilient software industry working from office barring critical services.
In view of the change in the working conditions after the lockdown, Prasad said measures would be taken to strengthen the Bharat Net broadband service to provide high-speed internet service.
It is not only the IT sector, but also states that should promote startups and research. Focus will be on providing e-governance and e-passes. The style of working has changed for almost all the sectors due to the pandemic, as evident from 80 per cent of geeks working from home the world over.
“As most services are offered online, the internet access will be strengthened through Bharat Net, the state-run telecom infrastructure provider,” said Prasad.
Prasad also appreciated the online health services offered in the southern state, which has become a trend setter for other states to follow.
Narayan explained to Prasad how the state was providing education and other services online, with over 500 techies working at the call centre with the ‘Apthamitra’ helpline.
“The call centre receives a whopping 50,000 calls daily from various people and responds to their needs to the extent possible. As an alternative to e-commerce, the helpline also provides essentials, including groceries and medicines delivered at the people’s doorstep even in red zones,” added Narayan.