THE MAGAZINE

When Darkness Falls in Delhi

By Matthew Harwood

In an attempt to protect female workers, companies had already voluntarily provided transportation to and from work, which led to the rise of Delhi’s taxi industry. But that was not sufficient, because the cab drivers themselves were sometimes unsavory characters. The voluntary adoption of security escorts in Bangalore in 2005 came in reaction to the rape and murder of a female BPO employee by her cab driver.

Shalini Chakravorty, India country manager for the risk consultancy Hill & Associates, says the Delhi police order has elicited complaints from affected companies. During a meeting between companies and the Commissioner of Delhi Police in February, industry leaders told police they needed the GPS requirements phased in and also stressed how the regulations, particularly walking females to their front doors, caused unnecessary delays when taking employees home for the night.

Despite their objections, the affected companies have complied with the December order, explained Mandeep Garewal, managing director of the guarding company Force Tech Security. He says the “harsh penalties” instituted by the Delhi Police gave companies all the motivation they needed to abide by the order. Any company’s senior management found in violation of the order could be imprisoned for a month or fined 200 rupees or both. A repeat offender, according to the order, could be jailed up to six months or fined 1,000 rupees or both.

But that doesn’t mean companies are following the letter of the law, says Manjit Rajain, chairman of Peregrine Guarding, an Indian guarding company. “It’s getting diluted a bit,” he says. Some BPOs aren’t placing security guards in cabs with female employees until later in the evening, even though the regulation says guards should be in cabs by 8 p.m., he says.

Also, when police extended the emergency order in mid-February, they revised the regulation to allow BPOs to forgo putting security guards in cabs when a male colleague was present in the cab with a female employee.

Rajain tells Security Management that BPOs are simply trying to cut costs. “Whenever a cost has to be cut, I think security is one of the first casualties,” he says.

Nevertheless, the order seems to have had the intended effect: there have been no reported attacks against female BPO employees since December, according to multiple sources.
 

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