Nearly 1,500 engineering graduates, including 400 from Tamil Nadu, who were justifiably elated when they landed what they thought were job offers from one of India’s largest IT companies, today find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, L&T Infotech, which issued each of them an “offer of intent” after campus recruitment in March 2015 but withdrew them, cites legalese to claim that what it offered was not a legally binding contract of employment.

On the other hand, the placement cells in the colleges claim plausible deniability for the students’ plight, including a campus placement provision that bars students who receive an offer of intent from appearing for interviews with any other company.

“While empathising with the students, we clarify that L&T Infotech had issued only Offers of Intent to prospective employees and not Letters of Appointment,” said D Morada, Vice-President, Larsen & Toubro Ltd, the parent company.

“This was explicitly stated in the terms of our offer. All stakeholders were clearly aware of the terms of the letters issued by us. All actions by the company were consistent with our Offers of Intent. The applicants who cleared an industry standard test duly received appointment letters to commence their training,” Morada added.

A recurring problem

Such instances are not unknown in the IT sector, where other top companies too have in the past delayed or withdrawn offer letters owing to lack of projects, which disrupted their hiring plans.

In 2013, fresh engineering graduates hired by HCL Technologies, India’s fourth-largest IT firm, staged a protest across India over the delay in hiring them after they had been issued offer letters.

The issue has sharpened the focus on college placement cells, which bar students who receive offer letters from appearing for an interview with other companies during campus recruitment drives.

This works to the disadvantage of students, who have no second choice once s/he gets an offer letter, but .helps the college secure 100 per cent placement, said sources.

One of the students who received an offer of intent from L&T Infotech says, “I was not interested in joining the company, but got the offer of intent. The placement office did not allow me to attend a second interview.”

‘Their bad luck’

When questioned on the students’ claim, a placement officer blamed the students themselves, saying that they ought to have been drawn up a Plan B in case an offer was delayed or withdrawn. “They cannot blame us for their bad luck,” he said, adding that the students were always aware of the bar on their appearing for a second interview in the event of their securing a letter of intent.

Another placement officer said it was not possible to allow students to attend multiple interviews, particularly if they had received an offer from a company. “It is like a groom who, having picked a prospective bride, wants to check out other girls,” he said.

The placement officer of a large college said that neither L&T Infotech nor the students had kept them informed about the withdrawal of the letters. “We could have made alternative arrangements for the students (if we had been informed),” he said.

Seeking help

Meanwhile, the affected students from Tamil Nadu are seeking help from State IT Minister and the IT Secretary to resolve the issue. They were assured that “necessary action” would be taken.

On Wednesday, the students met the Assistant Commissioner of Labour, who said that the department could not take up the issue since the students were not employees.

However, a letter encapsulating the discussion was forwarded to Labour Commissioner, said Alagunambi Welkin, President of the Knowledge Professional Forum, a team of professionals working in the IT & ITeS sector, which is helping the students.