The I.T or Information Technology boom has begun to seek its pound of flesh. In Bangalore, one of its metro hubs, rocketing divorce rates are beginning to worry social scientists.
Statistics reveal that in 2006 alone, 1,246 cases of divorce pertaining to those in the IT sector have landed in the matrimonial courts in Bangalore. Financial freedom, lack of time at home, erratic working hours, work pressure, financial security and stress are being seen as the main reasons for this fiasco.
What is most worrisome is that the number of divorce cases pertaining to those in the IT sector has seen a steady rise since 2003, and that this sector is becoming one of the largest contributors of broken marriages.
The year 2007 has not been too kind. The statistics available till June 2007 state that the number of divorce cases from the IT sector is 828 already.
Experts state that the figure is likely to increase by the end of the year.
In the year 2003, the total number of divorce cases, including the ones from the IT sector was 1,280 while in 2004 it was 1,240. In 2005 and 2006, the figures were 1,860 and 2,493 respectively.
The State Women's Commission has woken up to this issue and states that drastic measures have to be taken or else there would be more single persons that married couples in the city.
According to the Chairperson of the Commission Pramila Nesargi, in most cases marital discord is due to an unhappy physical relationship. "Viewing the computer for long hours has proven to cause impotency," she adds. She also says the commission is planning to visit the IT companies and take stock of the situation.
Nesargi wants to inspect working conditions and also make suggestions to change the working pattern of the employees, so that they get to spend more time at home.
Vishwanath B N, an advocate who is handling at least five cases pertaining to couples from the IT sector, says that these couples do not even try to reconcile and are in a hurry to end the marriage. There is very little that can be done to save the marriage after it comes to courts.
The pendency rate in such cases is not high either. Out of 3,829 cases relating to the IT sector from 2003 onwards till date, around 1,700 cases have been disposed of thanks to the couples opting for a mutual consent.
The remaining cases are pending since as per the matrimonial law, one year time is granted for reconciliation.
An advocate, Shalini P Shetty says that financial stability is a major problem. The couples do not try and work out the marriage as they are confident they can lead a life without each other, as both are financially stable.
According to psychiatrists, the culprit is none other than stress. Late working hours affects their sexual life and hence, they decide to part ways. The need of the hour is to strike the right balance between work and family, they say.
Yet, as software professionals will vouch, that is easier said than done. Only their employers- the companies they work for, can ensure that their employees get more time at home.
Meanwhile, six software professionals under the age of 33 have died and two top executives from renowned software companies have become paralyzed because of stress-related heart ailments in the last six months in Chennai, says a study by Mitran Foundation, a Bangalore-based voluntary association of practicing doctors.
Dr Dwarakanath, director of Mitran Foundation, who has studied stress components in 40 software companies in Chennai during the last six months: "All the six who died, and the two who became invalid, had no family history of heart attacks or any pre-history of heart ailments or paralysis. They were all in their prime, between 27 and 33 years, and handled challenging projects at work in their respective companies. They worked long and continuous hours. The end struck them very suddenly, and it looked as if their hearts refused to take any more stress".
This study was a follow-up of Mitran Foundation's four-year detailed national study on stress-related ailments for working professionals. It concludes that software professionals have pushed doctors to second position in being prone to stress-related disorders.
At present, there are over one lakh software professionals employed in the information technology sector in and around Chennai. With the expansions and consolidations planned by IT majors, this figure is expected to grow by another 50,000 this year. The Tamil Nadu government has given clearance for 40 more IT parks in and around Chennai.
This means jobs for another 75,000 professionals. IT investment in the state has risen from Rs 1,100 crores in 2001 to Rs 6,500 crores today. But the question of whether there has been a simultaneous improvement in the quality of life of software professionals remains unanswered.
The study, conducted at a cost of Rs 45 lakhs, covered more than 4,000 software professionals from 80 companies who were in service for a minimum of three years. The email responses were scientifically tabulated and the findings were ready in 2002. Dr Dwarakanath, who was the late Dhirubhai Ambani's personal stress management consultant, said questionnaires extracting every minute detail were sent to the respondents.
The personal background, family history and personal characteristics of these individuals were assessed and it was found that the stress in these professionals was only due to work pressure. All other factors were eliminated.
"Our study confirmed that the number of suicides, divorces, heart ailments, BP and diabetes patients and mental depression are the highest in the software industry. The fancy salaries of software professionals are no longer something to rejoice about," Dr Dwarakanath said.
"We found that the software industry has simply no routine. Deadlines hang before them and every day they chase new problems. During weekends more than 60 per cent of the vehicles are found parked in the office complexes. There is no physical exercise and new food habits favoured by pizza culture fuel the problem. Cervical spondilitis and wrist problems due to uncomfortable handling of the computer mouse, eye problems and discomfort in bowel movements are common.
The stress for couples where both are employed in the IT industry is the worst. The simple step of taking time off from work for three months allowed an IT couple wanting a child for years to conceive one," Dr Dwarakanath said.
M.T.R. Venukopalan, senior training coordinator, Covansys India, acknowledged that IT professionals were the most stressed individuals. "Even if the company sponsors a movie or self-care lecture, not many attend them," he said.
Jyothsana, a travel coordinator for Temenos India Pvt Ltd, expressed concern for the young employees who complain of back and knee pains. She acknowledged that IT professionals require a specific eating and physical exercise routine to ease their stress. "Our lives are becoming mechanical, guided only by deadlines," she says.