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Bangalore hire-on-merit balm on IT

Bangalore, Sept. 28: The Karnataka government today told infotech companies they could hire employees on merit after a fringe group seeking jobs for local language speakers led a protest at a leading software campus.

“We endorse the stand of the IT companies that recruitment should be strictly on merit than on any other consideration'. We understand the IT sector’s compulsions in having a meritorious recruitment policy, as it operates on a global scale in a competitive environment,” information technology secretary M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda told reporters here.

The assurance came a day after activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (Karnataka Protection Forum) staged a protest outside the campus of Infosys Technologies Ltd, the country’s second-largest software exporter, and demanded more employment for Kannadigas.

“Even the contracts for food catering, security services and transport are going to outsiders. These contracts should be given to Kannadigas. The IT companies should encourage use of Kannada in their offices. They should protect our culture and stop aping the West,” T.A. Narayana Gowda, the forum’s president, said even as police threw a cordon to prevent the 300-odd demonstrators from entering the campus.

Kannada speakers dominate Karnataka, whose capital Bangalore is home to more than 1,500 companies in information technology and business services, and accounts for more than a third of India’s $17.2-billion export industry that employs more than 10 lakh workers. The boom has attracted migrants from other parts of India, turning Bangalore into a cosmopolitan melting pot.

B.V. Naidu, director of the Software Technology Park of India, who addressed the news conference with IT secretary Gowda, said the industry’s estimate was about “40-50 per cent of the engineers” employed by information technology firms across the state were “locals, especially Kannadigas”.

The demand for more jobs for Kannadigas had earlier been made by ministers from the Janata Dal (S), a coalition partner of the Congress. It came in response to the industry’s threat to boycott the state’s flagship IT event next month unless civic amenities improved in the silicon hub.

Deputy chief minister M.P. Prakash and industry minister P.G.R. Sindhia, however, backed off after the IT industry made it clear that recruitment will only be on merit to cope with competition in the global market.

“For every rule there are obviously exceptions. Certainly, this is an exception in this case, and we accept their stand,” Prakash had said after industry representatives held talks with the government at a meeting chaired by chief minister Dharam Singh.

Ananth Koppar, the president of the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce, who had threatened to skip the IT.IN event but changed his stand after the September 22 meeting, said he does not think it is “right” to demand reservations for Kannadigas.

“We will not agree to it as our companies are talent-oriented and knowledge-based,” he added.

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