India tech firms warned not to abuse their exceptions to national coronavirus lockdown

DO: Keep essential services humming. DON'T: Sneak in client work and claim it's critical

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India's technology services industry has been granted a limited exemption from the nation's 21-day lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, but also been warned not to abuse its privileges by sneaking in work to avoid contractual complications.

Prime minister Narendra Modi yesterday gave India a scant few hours' notice of an effective-at-midnight 21-day national lockdown that requires "commercial and private establishments" to be "closed down".

Modi's rationale for the lockdown is that that India could reverse its progress across the last 21 years unless it nails the national quarantine for 21 days.

But there are exceptions for IT services. As outlined in the Ministry of Home Affairs' Order [PDF] about the lockdown, telecommunications and internet services can still operate. The Order also exempts "IT and IT enabled services only (for essential services) and as far as possible to work from home".

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India's peak IT industry body, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), has endorsed the lockdown and urged members to observe its spirit.

"Please do note that the essential services notifications cannot be interpreted to be used for projects that had to be completed in the near term and contracts carrying penalties etc," NASSCOM president Debjani Ghosh told members in a statement [PDF].

"This is only for truly mission-critical work, and any misuse will put us at the risk of losing the trust with the Government and might seriously impact the entire industry."

NASSCOM and India's government are silent on specific measures for offshore service delivery, but outsourcers have started sending staff home and ensuring offshore clients understand the privacy implications.

The industry association pushed hard for its members to be allowed to go about their business as much as possible during the lockdown in the Tweet below. ®

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