Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fake software companies cheating job aspirants

This Article was published in The Hindu on March 27, 2012

Lingamurthy, a resident of Srikakulam, came to city with many aspirations. With a fully paid scholarship for the computer science and information technology stream, his career was set for a firm upward trajectory in the software field.

For a person hailing from a family that makes its living by selling breakfast on a pushcart, this indeed was a big break. He was also elated when he got a ‘dream’ job at, Serene Global Services. The software company promised to train him in SAP, an Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software product, within six months and would assign him on related projects later.

He was to get a stipend of Rs.18,000 per month during the training period and a higher salary after that period. But these goodies came with one rider: he has to pay a deposit of Rs. 2 lakh initially.

Despite bleak financial status, Lingamurthy raised a loan by mortgaging his house and paid the deposit. But his dreams came crashing to the ground when the company turned out to be a hoax. Unable to service his loan, Lingamurthy is now forced to take up a job as an ATM guard for a sum of Rs. 6,000 per month.

Lingamurthy is not alone in this plight. About 700 employees of Serene Global Services have similar stories to tell. All of them joined the company as they thought it to be the best avenue to learn SAP for a head start in their career and most raised the deposit money through loans.

“It takes about Rs. 3.36 lakh to do SAP course. Here, we were promised of SAP certification, stipend and an year’s experience. For Rs. two lakh this was the best deal available for us,” Y. Niharika, another cheated employee said. Another factor that helped Serene Global Services in attracting aspirants was that it was well connected with consultancy companies and colleges. It was even listed in the government sponsored Jawahar Knowledge Centers, Malempati Siddhartha, of Forum of IT Professionals (ForIT), said.

The trend of taking a security deposit from a candidate has become a norm in the software companies, in spite of the fact that such practices are illegal, Mr. Siddhartha said. According to labour laws, taking a security deposit or forcing an employee to sign a bond is illegal and those agreements would not stand in a court of law, he explained.

But, lack of a proper mechanism to check these illegal practices, low awareness levels among the candidates and fewer jobs in the market is forcing engineering graduates to accept any conditionalities attached to a job, Mr. Siddhartha said.

The government too seems to have woken up to the problem. Home Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy informed the Assembly recently that a total of 31 cases were booked against bogus software companies in last three years in the city and it was considering a ‘Core Committee’ to prepare an action plan to control bogus IT companies.

‘I will get Rs. 2 lakh to bear the child’

Article Published in The Hindu

At the first look, Radha can easily pass off as any other pregnant woman waiting to go through her regular checkups at a clinic. But a closer observation would reveal that she is a tad older than a normal pregnant woman. The man accompanying her is not her family member but an agent.

At 33, Radha, a resident of Karimnagar district, is already a mother of two teenagers and lost her husband in 2010. But again Radha is no ordinary pregnant woman. She is a surrogate mother who took up another couple’s child.

“When my husband died I was left with a debt which I could not payback. It’s impossible to get a job to repay the debt,” Radha recounts wryly. “The offer to become a surrogate mother has come at the right time. I would get Rs. 2 lakh to bear the child. They would also pay for my maintenance and medical care,” she said.

But is she aware of the risks involved in pregnancy? “I have been through two pregnancies already and I am aware of the risks. I am fortunate to retain the fertilised ovum. Four more months and I can repay the debt and get back to a normal life,” she says. She also had to undergo a hormonal therapy during the preparatory phase of the surrogacy. “The doctors have explained everything and I have accepted the risk in each stage.”

Radha shares accommodation, provided by her agent, with five other surrogate women. “My children come to visit me at times. They know what I am doing and they support me,” she claims.

(Name of the surrogate has been changed to protect identity)

‘Qualifications’ of a surrogate mother

Article published in The Hindu

Poor, widowed, abandoned, indebted, uneducated and desperate — these are but the ideal qualifications of a surrogate mother today.

For a barren couple who cannot find a surrogate in their own circles, the womb of this underprivileged woman that is on hire, is almost sacred. And with no paucity of deprived women in the State, the couple literally have a wide ‘variety’ of women to choose from.

From a poor woman’s age, looks, background to health, the choice rests entirely on the wanting couple. That apart, the lifestyle of this woman during the ten-month-long period of surrogacy all but depends on the couples’ diktat.

And finding these women, surprisingly, is no difficult task with numerous self-appointed ‘agents’ spread across the city. Acting as a conduit between the poor surrogate, prospective parents and fertility clinics, these agents are a busy lot.

For an unemployed, abandoned or widowed woman with a family to look after, the Rs. 2 lakh offered by agents, or in certain cases clinics themselves, even for bearing another’s child is no small amount.

Wretched situation

“The situation of women who have decided to act as surrogate mothers is wretched one. While earlier only widowed women with no means of livelihood were willing, it is a different scene today,” said Seshasai, a medical practitioner.

A self-certified doctor in Dilsukhnagar, Seshasai also doubles up as an agent and counsellor helping poor woman find an income in surrogacy. “It is a shame that, because of the money involved, husbands themselves are ready to leave their wives with us for nine months to act as surrogates today,” he added.

Although married and with children these women are forced to practically live in isolation, away from their families, throughout the period of pregnancy. “Commercial surrogates are discouraged from living with their families owing to the possibility of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and other such reasons,” said Dr. K. Anuradha of Anu Test Tube Baby Centre.

Commercial surrogates are kept in hostel accommodations maintained by agents or certain clinics themselves. Despite several issues and uncertainties involved in the process, poor women are today increasingly looking at surrogacy as a means of livelihood. “Almost nine years ago, I had to convince poor patients at my clinic about the monetary benefit of acting as a surrogate mother. Today, poor women from across the State are themselves convincing their kin to take up surrogacy for the money,” said Seshasai. And bringing in other women to act as surrogates too is not without its incentives. Every time a woman refers another to an agent for surrogacy, she receives a sum of up to Rs. 25,000, agents said.

 

Once a taboo, surrogacy gaining acceptance in Hyderabad

Article in The Hindu

Nemmani Sreedhar and Pavithra S Rangan

Once literally a taboo, the idea of barren women ‘renting a womb’ to realise the joy of motherhood, is today being bravely embraced by the city.

Burgeoning fertility centres and their crowded premises here, bear testimony to the increasing acceptance of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, chiefly surrogacy.

Affordable procedures, latest technology, claimed success rates, and importantly, the ease in finding women willing to rent out their wombs in the city are incentives for women, not just from here but from across the world, to make Hyderabad ‘destination surrogacy’.

For a woman who cannot bear children, surrogacy is advised as a viable alternative wherein, a couple can have a genetic child with the help of a friend, family member or a commercial surrogate, willing to bear their baby.

“Five years ago, we barely undertook one surrogacy case in a year. Today, we deal with at least two cases every month,” said K. Anuradha, gynaecologist, Anu Test Tube Baby Centre.

“Couples earlier shied away from revealing the child as one obtained from a surrogate mother. But now the society at large is much more open to this idea,” she added.

While surrogacy is indubitably a boon for many, the process is not an entirely clean one. Lack of any enforceable law and regulatory mechanism in the process has reduced parenthood into just another commercial venture.

Some clinics encourage friends or family of barren women to come forward and assume the role of a surrogate. However, others are providing poor women whose wombs can be hired, thereby aggressively promoting commercial surrogacy. They have also formulated attractive packages with a promise to practically ‘deliver’ a baby for a fixed sum.

“Many are unwilling to act as surrogates for their own friends and family. This is the prime reason why couples opt for commercial surrogates,” said M. Divakar Reddy, Managing Director, Dr. Padmaja Fertility Centre. “We provide women willing to bear others’ children by paying them a fixed amount, and an agreement is signed between the couple and the surrogate,” he pointed out.

Social stigma

Even as surrogates are willing to bear children for monetary reasons, he said that they are still wary of the social stigma attached to bearing another’s child. “We counsel commercial surrogates extensively to make them see the nobility in helping a barren couple,” he said.

Women willing to act as commercial surrogates are primarily those belonging to lower-middle class backgrounds and are barely educated. “Several of them come to the city from rural parts of the State. In dire need of money, these women are wiling to bear another’s child, despite the many risks involved,” Dr. Anuradha said.

Certain clinics also have tie-ups with online portals that advertise commercial surrogacy and scout for prospective parents from across the globe. The process being three times cheaper in India, these portals apparently have no dearth of customers.

This has been promoting ‘reproductive tourism‘ in Hyderabad as well as other cities in the country. A certain clinic in the city has, within a span of six months, taken up cases of 12 foreign couples wanting children through commercial surrogates.

Pregnancy itself is a process involving several risks and surrogacy is no exception. In case of any eventuality to the surrogate during pregnancy, there are no laws or mechanisms to protect her. There is a need for a strong legislation to regulate the practice,” Dr. Anuradha said.

In a system involving conniving agents and clinics, a surrogate merely gets one-fourth of the total amount that a wanting couple is charged. But numerous physical and psychological risks that she is forced to bear during the process outweigh the commercial gain.

But is surrogacy the only option for a barren couple? Doctors believe that couples are opting for surrogacy because alternatives like adoption warrant an extremely cumbersome procedure. While adopting a girl child takes up to one-and-a-half years and for a boy the process is two-and-a-half years, doctors say couples prefer surrogacy, which in less than year gives them their genetic child.

Easing adoption laws and sensitising society at large, they say, can put at bay rampant malpractices surrounding surrogacy.