Killer call centre cabs

Updated: Nov 29 2006, 07:26am hrs
Name a company in India today and it will have a slew of elaborate programmes to fulfil what it sees as its corporate social responsibility. Some set off to correct huge societal wrongsthe treatment of the girl child, widow rehabilitationwhile others have more mundane targets like upkeep of the neighbourhood park. But deep down, most companies actually believe that the business of a company is to make profits. So when it comes to taking a call between saving a few rupees and a few lives being lost, they still prefer to cut corners. Callous though it sounds, its hard not to see yesterdays mowing down of two school children in north Delhi by another of the infamous call centre cabs as a prime example of this. This latest casualty brings to a head an issue that has cast a long shadow ever since the ITeS industry hit upon this mode of transportation as the most effective method of ferrying employees.

The issue isnt the accident itself; it is obvious these will happen with or without call centre cabs. The issue is the whole sub-culture of rash driving with open flouting of traffic rules that these vehicles have created and the hands-off attitude of the companies they ultimately serve. Most firms choose to outsource this vital task to external fleet or facilities management companies, which allows them to wash their hands of any such incidents. But to say that call centre drivers are not on their payroll and therefore they have little control over them is plain hypocrisy. Its like a chemical plant hiring contract workers and then washing its hands of any accidents, if they are careless, on the plea that they have little control over the actions of these contract workers. What companies need to be forced into accepting are the consequences (however indirect and inadvertent) of their business practices. Such measures as ensuring distinct painting of the name of the hiring BPO company on the ferrying vehicles, as suggested by the Call Centre Association of India, have still to be implemented. Maybe the time has come to hold a designated company official responsible for such tragic loss of life.