India is currently going through its fourth phase of lock-down to combat the spread of COVID-19. The three previous phases of lock-down have spanned over 21 days, 19 days and 14 days respectively. In all, the country till now has witnessed cessation of business activities for a total span of 58 days (including the “Janata Curfew”) across industries. Needless to say, this has challenged the existence of several small and medium sized organizations which operate on marginal profits. The situation is even worse in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, which are industry intensive and also cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune in particular, which house the majority of service industry workforce with participants from all over the country. However, unlike the first phase of lock-down wherein only essential services and their production was permitted, during the subsequent phases, certain other Industries and Establishments too have been permitted to commence their operations though business activity is no-where close to 100% potential.
On this background, the fourth phase of the lock-down has certainly brought a cheer to the Pune based IT/ITES Companies and firms rendering services relating to Information Technology. Vide Para 3 clause 10 of the Order issued by the Pune Municipal Corporation dated 19th of May 2020, private IT/ITES Organizations and allied firms and establishments, located in non-containment zones have been permitted to commence operations with 50% strength. Similarly, Data/Call Centres have been permitted to operate with least possible strength. In this regard, only those employees whose residence is not covered under the areas demarcated as “Containment Zone” would be allowed to report to work. It is also pertinent to note that operations in the above mentioned organizations shall be conducted in strict consonance with the Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures with regard to ensuring health and safety as mentioned in the said Order such as provisioning for masks/sanitizers, maintaining social distancing, thermal scanning, touch-free access to areas within the workplace etc. Organizations have been also advised to refrain from holding meetings with large number of attendees as far as possible. Heads of Organizations have been urged to advice their employees to download the Arogya Setu App. The organization shall also be required ensure availability and readiness with regard to emergency staff/vehicles to attend any employee with COVID-19 symptoms and take him/her to the designated hospital.
Certainly this move by the Pune Municipal Corporation to allow operations for IT/ITES Establishments shall ensure revival of normalcy in the service sector to an extent. However what needs to be ensured is stringent monitoring of adherence by these organizations to the guidelines and standard operating procedures to ensure safety of employees at workplaces against the COVID19 pandemic.
Amrit Tarafdar | Abhay Nevagi & Associate, Advocate