The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala on Wednesday announced a welfare fund for those working in the information technology and allied sectors. The IT employees have long been demanding the welfare fund. The initiative from the state government is the first its kind across the country.
The new welfare fund will be under the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishment Workers Welfare Board. It wil include pension, family pension, pregnancy and marriage-related benefits, medical aid, aid for the education of children, and aid for family in case of death.
As per state government estimates, there are over one and half lakh employees in the IT and allied sectors. Along with employees, their families will also be the part of the welfare fund. Employees aged between 18 and 55 years, who are working in IT or allied sectors, are eligible for membership in the welfare fund. Smaller firms, with even less than 10 employees, will also be the part of welfare fund.
Welcoming the move, Prathidhwani, a socio-cultural organisation of IT employees in Kerala, which has been demanding a welfare fund since 2016, said: "This move will entrust more confidence and ensure security to the lives of 1.5 lakh IT workers in Kerala.”
“It was in 2016 that we had first raised this demand with the government. Since then, we have been raising this demand at various forums and in representations to the Chief Minister as well as the MLAs. Most recently, this demand was raised again in the CM’s interaction with those from the IT sector,” said a representative of Prathidhwani.
Earlier, Prathidhawani representatives had met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also in charge of the IT department, and conveyed to him the need for a special welfare board. TV Rajesh, an MLA, had also made this demand before the Youth Welfare Legislative Committee. M Swaraj, an MLA, had brought the issue to the attention of Assembly through a submission.
As the IT sector remains mainly in the unorganised segment, layoffs have been quite common. The COVID-19 outbreak had further deepened this crisis. In Kerala, according to a report in June 2020, the IT sector suffered “approximately Rs 4,500 crore” losses in the first half of this financial year due to the COVID-19 situation. Following this, the state had announced a slew of proposals to revive the sector, including waiver of rent under certain conditions, avoiding annual increase in rent and other relaxations to the IT companies.
The state planning board has calculated that at least 80,000 jobs indirectly connected to the IT sector and 26,000 jobs directly in this sector were affected.
In recent years, Kerala has been focusing on the IT sector. The state has three IT parks -- Technopark (Thiruvananthapuram), Infopark (Kochi) and Cyberpark (Kozhikode) -- which act as hubs for satellite centres. As per the state government, these three IT parks together have more than 800 companies that provide employment to over a lakh IT professionals. Among these, Techno Park is one of India's largest IT parks and one of world's greenest technopolis as well. It is Kerala's first IT park with more than 410 companies employing more than 60,000 IT professionals.