India is about to start its first ‘Jail IT BPO’ in Hyderabad, says this report in Indian Express. Obviously, congratulations are in order. We are taking hardened criminals, training them for an occupation and giving them a respectable way to earn a living. The company who came up with and is implementing this idea is basking in its own glorious act and giving out sound bytes about its Corporate Social Responsibility initiative and pointing out that while the standard daily wage for a prisoner is a measly Rs. 15, they will pay these poor guys a princely sum of Rs. 100 a day. The second prison the company has in its sights is the one that will soon house Raju, the man who built Satyam with his sweat and blood and then, sucked the blood of its shareholders to build his own fortune. Raju, according to a spokesperson of this wonderful company, is already a great inspiration to other inmates of this prison. And why not? After all, if you are in prison for stealing twenty four hundred rupees wouldn’t you find the guy who stole twenty four thousand crores an inspiration?
Looks like I am heading towards saying that I don’t think that this Jail BPO is a very good idea. Yes, I am. And here’s why.
India, yes, the shining and incredible one, the heir apparent for the throne of Superpower, has almost forty per cent of its population living below the poverty line. That is, earning less than Rs. 15 a day in villages and Rs. 22 a day in cities. That is to say, one-third of the bloody country is trying to feed itself, pay rent and buy clothes (things that are free for a jailed convict) in Rs. 15/22 a day. The fact that some wise guy thinks that a person who has been sent to jail as punishment for an act that harmed either an individual or the society or the nation in some way deserves a better daily wage than one-third of the country does not make sense to me at all.
Well, let me allow my imagination to run riot for a bit:
Flashback to a brainstorming session at the said company’s headquarters:
“What do we pay a trainee these days?”
“Haven’t you heard of the global recession? How are we going to be competitive with that kind of wage bill?”
“I have no idea.”
“I have one – idea.”
“Let’s train convicted criminals in IT. They currently get 15 bucks a day. We will pay them 100. Imagine the savings.”
“And we can claim CSR credits!!!”
“And they do it all the time in America.”
“That seals it! Can I kiss you?”
“Sir… I have a wife.”
“So do I; I was being figurative.”
Anyway, why am I complaining? The deed is done and the training is underway. Soon, Raju’s new colleagues will not only receive inspiration but also receive instruction from him. Who knows, after coming out of jail armed with this valuable education they might go on to outdo their master. Of course, the stock exchange might come down like a pack of cards. Which might not be such a bad idea – at least we will find out how the other one-third leads their lives.