VPN norms for IT sector relaxed till July 31, not work from home, clarifies Ravi Shankar Prasad amid coronavirus COVID-19 spread

Union Law Minister Ravi Shalar Prasad on Tuesday clarified that the relaxed connectivity norms for ‘work from home’, applicable to IT companies, have been extended till July 31, amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier the relaxation was till April 30. This comes as a clarification to an earlier report stating that Prasad had extended the work from home for the IT companies till July 31.

On Tuesday, the minister held a discussion, via video conferencing, with the state IT Ministers and officials. Taking to the micro-blogging site,Twitter, he said that in response to IT industry’s request to facilitate work from home for Other Service Providers, the Department of Telecommunication had relaxed the terms and conditions for Virtual Private Network (VPN) till April 30.

After Tuesday’s discussions with IT Ministers, this relaxation in terms and conditions has been extended till July 31. He clarified that it is not an extension of work from home. He tweeted, “Wish to clarify that it is not extension of WFH. In response to IT Industry’s request to facilitate WFH for OSPs, DoT had relaxed terms and conditions for VPN till 30.4.20. After discussions with IT Ministers this relaxation in terms & conditions is extended till 31.7.20.”

Industry body Nasscom said the decision to extend the timelines on relaxed norms for other service providers (OSPs) to facilitate ‘work from home’ will help IT and BPO firms plan their strategy of bringing back workforce to offices, in a gradual and phased manner, according to news agency PTI.

In March, the DoT relaxed certain norms for OSPs till April 30 to facilitate work from home (WFH) amid the coronavirus pandemic. This included exemptions in requirement of security deposit and agreement for WFH facility for OSPs (primarily IT and IT-enabled services companies). Earlier, companies were not allowed to connect office Virtual Private Network to home infrastructure, a rule that was subsequently relaxed in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Given that work-from-home is going to be a new normal for some time, the decision to extend timelines is a welcome move. It will help companies plan their return-to-office strategy in a phased manner. Now that the deadline is being extended to July, companies too can plan their workforce returning to the office, in the same way,” Nasscom Senior Vice-President and Chief Strategy Officer Sangeeta Gupta told PTI. Currently, over 90 per cent of the IT workforce is working from home and only those performing critical functions are going to offices.

The minister had also said that a lot of relaxations were given for work from home and IT Secretary, Communication Secretary, and Postal Secretary gave presentations of their departments citing requirements and expectations by the Centre from the state departments. Norms for work from home have been relaxed. “We will aspire that work from home should become a new norm,” Prasad had said while asking the participants to encourage young entrepreneurs investing in new startups.

Speaking to media persons via video conference, Prasad said that Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi has requested to develop an app where the best strategies of all states to contain the pandemic will be shared. “We have accepted this suggestion. I have asked the National E-Governance Division (NEGD) & National Informatics Centre (NIC) to prepare an app. Both NEGD and NIC have agreed to develop an app in three days,” he had said.

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