The IT companies in the State has demanded concessions in rentals on space leased from the Government at Technopark and other facilities and reduction of power tariffs to face the impending impact of global economic crisis. The Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan has responded to them positively.
The IT companies are demanding their pound of flesh for Mr. Achuthanandan’s crusade for the employees of the IT industry to succeed. If the industry is to retain excess workforce, the Government should pay for it. The deal is just not worth it.
The IT industry is already receiving many concessions. There were tax waivers and investment subsidies (up to 40 per cent). The Technopark in Trivandrum has cost the Government about 100 crores (excluding the recently added facilities). It is also spending considerable sums for the maintenance of infrastructure. Considering the real estates costs and administrative expenses, the rentals being collected from the industry is low.
All businesses face ups and downs. There is no reason why Government should be there in advance to fend off troughs. When the farmers faced trouble because of globalisation, the government was late in stepping in. The IT units, which reaped the benefits of globalizations, are not in a worse position than the farmers are. (Now that the rubber prices are coming down, will the government step in to support their high income-levels?)
Rather the government should turn this into an opportunity. If the companies are going jobless, the government should hire them for its programmes for e-governance and IT infrastructure development. Naturally, that would and should come cheaper and the profitability of IT companies would suffer. However, that should be taken as inevitable when the times are bad. After all, they were the ones who made the big money until now. Now let them contribute to the State’s development. Give them work, but no monetary concessions.
The Government should not directly force them to retain excess staff. However, it could restrain them from over-working its so-called executives (software engineers). If a stop were put 18-hour working days, the companies would need more employees.
Let us also look at what would happen if the lease rentals are lowered. They would remain static for years to come. There would always a reason for not increasing it.
Take the instance of the plantation industry. The lease rentals, fixed before independence, remain at Rs. 5 a hectare or lower. Though the Assembly passed a legislation to increase it 28 years ago, it remains unimplemented. Corruption is alleged to be the reason. The revision proposed in the law was linked to profitability, and that provision attracted the bitterest opposition from the industry!