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Glamorous Indian jobs loose sheen in Kashmir

by Faisul Yaseen

Dec 29, 2006:

With peanuts in salaries, huge work load in insecure conditions, the call centre jobs in Indian administered Kashmir have become a major source of exploitation of the already battered youths, by the big national and multinational companies.

The advent of call centres in Kashmir couple of years ago, had been heralded as a new era by government with promise of bright future to the youths. But as the revelations about third grade treatment to Kashmiri youths arise, the dreams are just crashing one by one.

Fat packages, midnight coffees, dashing clothes and late night parties are some of the hallmarks of the life of customer care executives and the other technical and non-technical staff working in call centres in different Indian cities. However, when it comes to Kashmir, the youth working here have nothing to brag. Peanuts in salaries, no promised meals, tonnes of work, extended shifts and no holidays are some attached properties for the same work in Kashmir.

Aijaz Ahmad, a resident of Srinagar suburbs at Rawalpora, left a job in Wipro, a leading software company in India, at New Delhi, to return to work in his hometown when he heard one of India's leading telecom service providers, Airtel, was opening its call centre at Srinagar, summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir.

"Having an experience of working in Wipro, I knew I'll get through the initial screening. The interviewers selected me for my experience. But I was shocked when I learnt about the salary package on offer.

"A customer care executive in Kashmir is given a mediocre salary ranging between Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 in Airtel, which is one-sixth to one-eighth the salary the company offers in different Indian cities where they get around Rs. 18,000 to Rs. 25,000 and even more," said Aijaz, who turned down the offer. "I would better sit idle than be exploited and work for peanuts," he added.

Priyanka Mehta (name changed) is working at Jammu, winter capital of Indian administered Kashmir, for Aircel, another leading telecom service provider in India. Since her four months association with the company she has developed stress related psychiatric ailments. "I'm on a look out for a replacement job. As soon as I get one, I will quit Aircel.

"I will never work in a call centre. The authorities here treat us like bonded labour. We were promised meals during work hours, pick and drop service from our homes, but they simply backtracked”.

"We were promised incentives for delivering quality work. Instead we get salary cuts for absolutely no reason. Besides, salaries don't come on due dates," she alleged about the company.

Priyanka also informed that when she appeared in the interview for the Aircel, she was promised a basic salary of Rs. 4,000 plus incentives. "This we were told would make up around Rs. 7,500 salary per month. Today they even cut, I don't know what taxes, from our basic salary," Pyriyanka alleged saying she was getting frustrated working at the call centre.

The customer care executives are told not to let the average handing time (AHT) go beyond three minutes, talk nicely to a customer (caller) even if s/he is rude, take the diktats of the team leaders even if they are wrong and getting promotion all depends on those team leaders and the quality analysts.

"Working in a call centre is bonded labour in the 21st century," said Deepak (name changed), another customer care executive working for Airtel at Jammu.

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