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BPO shocker exposes lapses

A woman call-centre employee who thought nothing of boarding the pool car though there was a stranger sitting beside the driver was raped and murdered by the duo in Pune.

The attack on Jyoti Choudhary, 22, who worked with Wipro’s call centre Spectramind, has revealed lapses and loopholes in the security revamp BPOs claim to have carried out after a rape-murder in Bangalore two years ago.

Jyoti was the first employee to be picked up by the car that arrived at her home in Pune’s upscale Pashan locality at 10pm on Thursday.

Engrossed in a cellphone conversation with her boyfriend, she probably didn’t realise the car had taken a wrong turn and was on Pune-Mumbai Expressway till the mobile was rudely snatched from her.

Driver Puroshottam Borate and his friend Pradip Korude have confessed that after raping her, they smashed her head with a stone, officers said. The two men, both in their 20s, were arrested after Jyoti’s body was discovered last night off the highway near Ghaunje village.

“She died of a skull fracture. Swabs have already been taken to confirm rape,” said the superintendent of police, Pune (rural), Vishwas Nangre-Patil.

Wipro officials said no non-employees were allowed in pool cars and that Jyoti, according to the company security drill, should have refused to get in and called the office help desk.

BPOs are also supposed to send a security guard along if a woman is the first to be picked or the last to be dropped. The official spokesperson of Wipro BPO, however, said Jyoti was second on the pick-up list but the male employee who was first skipped work that night.

In such instances, the driver is supposed to pick up the second male on the list and go back for the woman employee, he said.

“She (Jyoti) should have called the central help desk and asked for another car with an escort.”

Jyoti’s boyfriend didn’t suspect anything when the call was “disconnected”. When he failed to get in touch early next morning, he called her sister. Jyoti, who is from Uttar Pradesh, stayed with her married sister at Panchvati Society.

The sister found out that Jyoti had never reached office the previous night and lodged a first information report around 7am. It was the police who got in touch with the BPO.

Wipro officials said they hadn’t really expected Jyoti to turn up since she had resigned and Thursday was her last day in office – a claim the police confirmed. Calls to her mobile were being diverted to her voice mailbox anyway, company officials said.

Of the two men to be picked up by the same car after her, one had called to say he wasn’t coming while the second rang the driver when the car didn’t arrive at the scheduled time of 10.40pm.

The driver told him he had a flat tyre and the employee informed the help desk. The car picked him up at 12.40am, and the driver then did two more rounds of pick-ups and drops and stayed on duty till 7am.

The car-rental firms are to carry out mandatory checks on drivers’ antecedents. The police said driver Borate had quit his job and rejoined on October 30, and was on his first night shift on Thursday.

“Our transport cell makes random calls to occupants of pool cars (called cabs) at night to check if everything is fine. But it doesn’t happen every night, nor does the call go to every employee,” a Wipro official said.

Women BPO employees said Jyoti should have been more careful. “As soon as I board the cab I check the roster, which mentions the route. I never doze off and never talk on the phone. I call up the transport helpline if I feel any irregularity in my route,” said Anindyo Sengupta, 24, who has been working with BPOs in Mumbai for the past three years.

In April 2007, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) had recommended the use of global positioning system (GPS) technology to track pool cars, especially in Delhi, Chandigarh, Chennai, Bangalore and Pune.

“Tracking devices are yet to be installed in the cabs,” a Wipro official said.

“Although there are supposedly several (security) mechanisms, hardly anyone implements them,” the owner of a BPO in Salt Lake said.

Most of these mechanisms were suggested after Pratibha Srikant Murthy, 24, was raped and killed by a pool-car driver in Bangalore on December 16, 2005. The trial in a fast-track court has been interrupted by the judge’s transfer a few months ago, but Bangalore police expect the verdict by the end of the year.

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