Lessons for the corporate world and the government
Ratan Tata, the iconic chairman of the Tata group of companies has recently come for some adverse attention.
It is a great pity that Tatas whose name symbolizes the very prestige of the Indian economic strength and in a way, give s a sense of pride and glow to the Indian image abroad.
With such a prestige behind him Ratan Tata had slipped into some actions or activities into whi9ch he had been drawn or dragged into by some very wrong types of politicians and this is the real rub now.
Tatas were once considered as the last resort to bail out the government in some tricky situations. One was ,way back to disinvestment programme. That is how Tatas were conferred the ownership of the VSNL, the then almost state monopolistic telecom giant.
Today the PSU telecom giants have all been reducing to nonentities thanks to the emergence of the private players.
It is as a private player in the telecom sector that Tata now courts controversy.
He was “summoned” to appear before the Public Accounts Committee(PAC) of Parliament. One positive outcome of this unseemly business of Tata along with his appointed lobbyist, the now notorious Radia Tapes lady, is rather very disgusting, to say the least.
More so the Radia Tapes are now a part of the public, collective memory of what has wrong with the Indian corporate world.
Tata had done many wrong things, perhaps he was advised so badly. Or, he was led to commit this wrong by some vested interests.
It is clear he wrote a handwritten letter to one more notorious politician in this game, namely, Mr.M.Karunanidhi, the DMK chieftain and the TN Chief Minister. It is this handwritten letter given in a sealed cover to the CM through Nira Radia that creates so many questions. The PAC rightly asked Tata why writes to a state Chief Minister. Why not to the Prime Minister directly or to the concerned Cabinet Minister? In this instance, Tata wrote about Raja, now a charged with criminality and many other offences by the CBI and languishing in jail and see what the Tata are, choice words of praise!
Raja, in the handwritten letter, Tata says is a rational man, a fair-minded man, a very good man. How poorly he judged the politicians? Perhaps, he did it know so far and let us hope he has become now a bit wiser, if not a clear-headed man and how politicians could trap him in some tricky situations.
Thanks to M.M.Joshi, the chairman of the PAC it now comes in the public domain about what Tata did and how he feared in the beginning about the conduct of the enquiry and how his apprehensions were cleared once he went through the ordeal. They most objectionable roles played by Tata are:
One, he tried to lobby for the allocation of the portfolio of telecom for Raja. It is not at all his business to indulge in such silly politics. Towards this end all his huge payments to the extent of Rs.30 crore for lobbying for Tatas could be taken as a bribe! This is how other corporate honchos(names needn’t be bandied here for the names are all well-known) and what is of immediate interest to the general public is that unless the public is educated as to the way the corporate captains misuse their wrongly earned wealth .One needn’t be a Leftist or a Communist or some other radical to point this out.
Even a rightwing person or some other conservative critic can point this out and say what the Indian corporate world is doing in recent times raises some very critical questions for the future of the Indian economic growth as it is pursued by Dr.Manmohan Singh.
There is laxity or lack of any ideological articulation on the part of this government.
In the name of some harmless words and phrases like rate of economic growth, economic reforms or some other such words, what is happening is that Indian economy has come to be dominated by some unscrupulous private businessmen who in the old style mould of robber barons they resort to arm-twist the politicians and bureaucrats and get things done in the model of what Raja has now resorted to do. Raja, a Cabinet Minister whose dubious approach to climb the political pole is to bribe his own mentor first. Thus, the DMK is now alleged to have taken bribes for funding and expanding the family TV and real estate business. The political boss thus sees to it that the corrupt person gets his ministerial job.
In fact, the DMK as a past master in politics of blatant corruption had taken choice portfolios like telecom and also national highways. As a result we saw the NHA saw frequent changes of chairmen of the NHA for the simple reason the concerned minister, in this case, the DMK man, tried to award contracts to bribe givers and thus even the otherwise helpless man like our Prime Minister at least this time dared to remove the person concerned. Likewise, if the PM had only kept this telecom minister away he would have saved himself and the country from the current crisis.
It is a great pity the political culture is now so tainted that even the Congress President is unable to get herself disassociated with such a corrupt political ally!
So, our democratic politics is now so damaged that from one end to the other, from the party president to the head of the government everyone seems to have been tagged and the result is that our democracy stands derailed and there is every risk that this government might not last its term!
In this murky game of everyone trying to get his or her advantage, become collectively accused in the upturning of democracy into a corrupt oligarchy.
In this, whatever happens now in the Supreme Court what has happened outside the court, in the public domain, is the most critical issue. Somehow Ratan Tata has come to symbolise the malaise in the Indian political system and he can’t simply plead innocence and get away.
This taint will stay. One doesn’t know for how long. May be everyone has to pay a price for this taint. The price our corporate captains have to pay for saving Indian democracy is rather too high, as things stand now.