I do not watch serials on TV, but recently I happened to watch a few minutes of the kannada serial 'Minchu', directed by T.N. Seetharam.
What was going on was this. X, the managing director of a company, has an assistant Y. Now, there is another person Z, who is in need of money for her daughter's wedding, and approaches the finance department of the company for assistance. Z has already taken a housing loan and is still repaying it. Because of that, the finance department agrees to loan only a small amount of money. Z approaches Y, who takes her case to the MD and convinces the MD to increase the loan amount.
Okay, this was just an instance in a TV serial. But it was directed by Seetharam, and we can be sure that he thought it out well, before bringing it on screen. No one can deny that a company is responsible for its employees. But there is only so much anybody can do for anybody else. Even when it is possible, it is not right to cross those limits. What if all the employees of the company (or even half of them, for that matter), ask for loans, for genuine reasons? What would X have done?
Being complacent that someone higher-up is going to bail one out of all difficulties is bad. Unfortunately, I guess that is how we humans are wired (I sometimes wonder if it is just an Indian trait!). Some people always expect that rich companies help mend the bad roads, help government-run schools, and generally donate money generously for all causes.
Recently, I read an article that I received by email, written by Ravi Belagere. It was an open letter to Sudha Murthy. I respect Ravi Belagere a lot for his views, but this article struck me as very odd. Apparently M.P. Prakash, our erstwhile Dy. Chief minister, told Ravi Belagere that he asked all the IT majors to donate money for the development of infrastructure and various other things, and apparently all of them replied that "they would get back on this issue", but have not gotten back since then.
That is not all. Belagere rants about how all flyovers are near the IT offices, how the rich IT companies do not care about the necessities of the farmer whose land was destroyed by floods and about poor children who do not have access to education, how Bangalore became so very costly because of the IT companies.
To an extent, what he says is true. There is too much immigration from other parts of India to Bangalore. Cost of living is escalating. Rents have touched an all-time high. The traffic-situation is abysmal. Rather than spend evenings quietly with books, the youth prefer to hang out at malls. Ask any highschool kid, he/she wants to be a software engineer and nothing else. It is like they do not have any rolemodel in any other field. Good teachers, scientists and the like are hardly to be found. These developments are not good.
But how wise is it to blame the IT industry for everything? Businesses are there because they are in demand. An IT company exists because there are sponsors and shareholders and customers. And people work for IT companies because they pay them enough money to give good education to their kids and build bigger houses. Even IT companies get tax subsidies from the government because they generate revenue and create more wealth. Engineering colleges hiked their fees because of the high salaries the students may get once they finish their education.
And it is not like the IT companies do not do anything for the society. At R's company, there was this quarterly event where each person of the team was paired with a kid from a nearby government school. At the end of the event, R gave him his phone number, and asked him to call if he needed any help. True, such events are few and far between, but that is a start, and a good one at that. RSS has a few orphanages and schools ('anaatha shishu nivaasa', 'aruna chetana', etc) that thrive on donations by 'Professionals in Seva'. The Infosys Foundation has also done a lot of social work.
As harsh as it may sound, companies are answerable to their shareholders, and that is how their policies are made. M.P Prakash cannot complain against global companies without plugging the corrupt holes in his own ministry.