Activists, students and trade union representatives of AIDWA, WWC, CITU and DYFI protested against the murder of Uma Maheswari, a TCS employee who was murdered in Siruseri IT park on February 13th. While the police ignored the complaint of her father after Uma went missing on 13th, the body of the employee was found 9 days later on 22nd when passersby noticed a foul stench emanating from a bush near TCS office. Four migrant workers were arrested in connection with Uma’s murder. An estimated 1 lakh employees are working in various firms in the Siruseri IT park and 30% of IT workforce is estimated to be women.
Comrade Latha, State Secretary of CITU deplored the apathy of the IT companies and the state in ensuring safe working environments. She termed IT work as modern bonded labour citing that labour laws including regular working hours, secure transport for women workers on late shifts are violated at these worksites. She said ‘After Prathiba’s murder in 2005, Supreme court laid guidelines on women’s safety measures which was endorsed by Justice Varma Commission. However these guidelines are not enforced. Only after Uma’s murder, this is being taken up seriously’. She called for registration of migrant workers by labour department for registration of migrant workers in construction industry.
Calling for implementation of sexual harassment at workplace, Vasanthi, District secretary of Working Women’s Council said that it should not be forgotten that other women workers such as domestic and housekeeping workers are also employed in IT sector and security and rights and concerns of these workers are not being included. She questioned why enforcement of labour rights and security responsibilities are not part of MOUS signed with IT companies when the MOUs guarantee so many subsidies for the companies. ‘While companies are installing CCTV cameras all over including rest rooms to monitor their employees, why are they not using technologies to ensure safety for employees?” said Vasanthi.
The apathy of the State Government and Police specifically came under lots of criticism in the protest. Prema, District president of Working Women’s Council condemned the patriarchical attitude of the Inspector who was supposed to have told the father of the worker(when he went to complain about his missing daughter) that she(the woman employee) was likely to have eloped with a guy. Dhamu of DYFI said that while evidences of sexual violence and harassment against women in public spaces are mounting, the lack of implementation of the laws is not even on the agenda of the Governments’.
The protest held at Sholinganallur Signal on 28th of February called for the following demands:
Ensure security for women employees in IT Sector.
Do not show apathy on complaints about missing women or sexual harassment complaints.
End the continued violence on women in Tamil Nadu
Ensure swift action on perpetrators of sexual violence and sexual harassment.