Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fall of the Tatas

[The following informative article was published in Comrade Anoop saha's Blog. I have just cross pasted it]

NDTV is running a poll for the “Person of the year”, urging its viewers to vote for the most influential Indian for the year 2006. The list has famous achievers from all sections of the society, and there is nothing wrong with the list. Except the glitch that the list starts with the name of Ratan Tata, head of Tata group of Companies.

Not only is the inclusion of Ratan Tata’s name in the person of the year nominees a slap on the face of all free and right-minded individuals, it is actually a sacrilege considering his involvement in rapes, murders and mass murders in past one year. There was a time, till the times of JRD Tata, when the Tata group was considered as one of the most honest and upright enterprises in India. The name of Tata inspired awe from free-marketers and socialists alike, for their fair approach to business. That was the time when the top management of Tata boasted of names like Moolgaonkar, Russi Mody, Palkhivala and many more strong individuals. That time is gone, Ratan Tata succeeded JRD as the chairman of Tata group, and under him the company has become more like an organized crime syndicate. This was even more glaring in 2006 than ever in the past.
The year started with the massacre of 12 tribals in Kalinganagar, Orissa. On 2nd January, as a new year gift to them, 12 tribals were showered with police bullets in Orissa. They were protesting against acquisition of their land for a Tata steel plant. On the appointed day, the foundation stone was to be laid for the steel plant. The tribals, outraged at the whole process of land acquisition, laid siege of the site. The state government, in its servility to the tatas, and to show the adivasis their proper place, mindlessly fired at the crowd. The sequence of events vary depending on whether you are asking the people involved or the government, but this report by a fact finding team tries to present the truth in its undiluted form. Not only were the adivasis killed, their bodies were badly mutilated afterwards. The arrogance of the state was all too much visible. The tatas have excused themselves of any blame, and have since then continued their steel-making enterprise with even more vigour.

Something similar happenned in Lohandiguda near Jagdalpur in the tribal heartland of Chhattisgarh. Lohandiguda was the theater of tribal unrest in mid-1960s, when led by their ex-ruler Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo, the tribals revolted against the policies of the central government of India. Their demands were simple, cheaper rice and relief from famine. Just for asking that, the state forces open-fired on the protesters, who were assembled in the maharaja’s palace, and killed the raja along with “thirteen” tribals. (Although official records say that only 13 adivasis were killed, eyewitnesses claim that thousands were murdered.) This marvellous part of Bastar’s history demands a separate post, or a new book.

Coming back to Lohandiguda, the Chhattisgarh government sanctioned land for the tatas to build a steel plant there. The MoU signed with the tatas have not yet been made public. On the other hand, blatant force was used(link: pdf) to force the adivasis living there to surrender their land at paltry sums. The village elders were arrested on the eve of gram sabha, section 144 was imposed, and they were forced to sign on the documents. The details can be read here (Go to the section, “What Essar can do, the Tatas can too”). A group of 20 farmers, who were forcefully displaced from their land were in New Delhi in September 2006. They wanted to do a press conference in Delhi, describing their plight. However none of the media houses were interested in covering those protests, as they had no support from any politician. One particular magazine editor told them blatantly, “If we publish your story, first the tatas will stop their advertisements. Next they will file a defamation suit, and it will entail considerable expense on our part.”. So much for the fairness of the media.
By the yearend, the Singur imbroglio has reached its zenith. Both in terms of protests, and state repression. Protests at Singur symbolizes the poor man’s fight against the mighty state and its agents in the private houses (Or Private houses and their agents in the government). Ratan Tata, who is NOT an engineer, who has never been involved closely with the working of Telco has designed a car. According to him, a fundamental change in suspension, a plastic body, and in-house-parts will decrease the cost of a car. The state of West Bengal, is all too accommodating in catering to the whims of Ratan Tata. His personal choice of prime agricultural land was acquired forcefully, because raw materials will be cheaply available. How can the state be so subversive to the personal whims of a crook?

On 18th december, even when Ratan Tata was one his way to be NDTV’s person of the year, a 19 year old woman activist Tapasi Mallick was raped, burnt and murdered in the fields of Singur by the goons hired by the Tatas. The land where her body was found was inside the zone where boundary was been put and protesting villagers were not allowed. The state first dismissed the reports of rape, and the media chose to ignore it at first. The outrage that followed, compelled the WB state to order a CBI inquiry. Why was the woman raped? Just because she does not want to part with her land. Just because she had the courage of standing up to the personal whims of a crook? It is entirely possible that her rape was planned in the Tata office, inside Ratan Tata’s room, to send a signal to the protesting farmers? And then the man had the audacity of claiming that his competitors are fuelling the fire in Singur. Sick, I say. Buddhadeb thinks otherwise.
What’s common to all these events. What’s common to Kalinganagar, Lohandiguda and Singur. Tatas were involved in all of these projects. There are countless others in all oarts of India. It is shameful that the business house, that was once regarded as the fairest of them all, the one that was believed as it could never bribe its way to the top, has become such a nasty syndicate under the current leadership. It is indeed sad that the man who employed all kind of fraudulent means to defame his own colleagues, who were some of the best brains of India, the man who cheated his own employees and brutally crushed the trade unions, that man is media’s poster boy of 2006. He is going to be crowned as India’s Person of the Year. In the year when his organization was involved in rapes, cheating and mass-murders.
I Object.

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