Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Confession, a Conviction and a Caution - TATA

This is not a neutral perspective. This post is skewed – heavily – against the Indian heavy weight that is getting stronger by the day, and from this biased view point, is getting dangerously, obnoxiously haughty! This column from Clearway states in plain, unambiguous terms, that the giant machinery called Tata needs to be stopped on its paths as it keeps trampling upon the lives of ordinary citizens.

We sometimes get nauseatingly nationalistic, pathetically patriotic that we get emotionally attached to a brand that has risen above all odds to take Brand India to the international arena; a larger-than-life image that hinges very much to the ground-breaking revolutionary visions of a pioneer who is no more, a halo effect that has been transmitted and carried over to his next of generations, to someone who is merely a business man who is worried about his own wealth and his own company!

That most of what Tata does to the consumer is to rape him/ her and plunder him of his hard-earned money is obvious from the cacophony that came out of the blog world, with hundreds of victims of rape filing their FIR’s online. (For more details, a blog search on Tata Indicom/ VSNL would help). It still remains a cacophony because the media is in no mood to raise an eyebrow against a money-studded juggernaut; all it can do is to interview the top man and ask for his opinion about the mess that a part of one of his many businesses is in! Consumers were mugged when they entered the VSNL post-paid internet shop. One wouldn’t expect to find so many unrelated people speaking the same thing unless they were all robbed off in separate circumstances by the organised crime gang of Tata - VSNL.

It was a few months back that one prominent politician expressed his anguish on TV over the way Mr Ratan Tata behaved in the corridors of power. “To ask for land is acceptable; but he demands one particular stretch of land from the Government, which is not right” he moaned, about Mr Ratan Tata. But the brand has become so powerful and integral to the way business is run in the country that no one really bothers to dig into these issues! conveyed to its audience, mildly, that the quantum of land that Tata demands at Singur is a lot more than what may be necessary, given the scope of the operations that Tata says it has planned. It even compared the area with what Maruti Udyog required for a much smaller operation. And there is no need to be surprised if Tata, in its greed for power and land, tries to buy some people to have its way.

“The government supports us – and to pull out in this situation would not be appropriate”. It was something on similar lines that Mr Tata said in his interview to a private Television Channel. If the government opposes the Tatas on any other business proposition, would Mr Ratan Tata use a similar logic to the issue? “I know this project makes so much economic sense and is integral to the business plans of my company. But since the government has slightly different views on my business, I have decided to scrap it!” Mr Tata, would you take this stand on some issue if the government went against you? Or, you would, perhaps, try to buy your way to muffle the voices before they emerge out, wouldn’t you?

'No, if I believed that we are doing something wrong, then I would be the first one to pull out. If I believe, that this is being manipulated and turned around to meet some specious cause, then I think, what I would do is to dig my heels in,' he contended in the interview.
The problem is, Mr Tata, you are not the sort of guy who would ever believe you did anything wrong. For you, everything is right as long as it brought you money.
'I'm the sort of person who if you put a gun to my head, you can pull the trigger or take the gun away, but I won't move my head,' he had quipped.

You would neither move your head nor would you move your heels, Mr Tata. But the fact remains that you suck blood and your skin has gotten real thick with it. Ms Banerjee’s gun might have had no bullets and the world knows it - there was just no need for you to be moving your head in a hurry! But it would not be too long before some small nail stuck to your roaring motors and punctured your tyres! If you are willing to read, there is so much of writing on the wall – reduce your speed and look into the rear view mirror to count the number of casualties you have caused. If you do not, there is no ivory tower and there may not be a bright future for your dynasty – nothing is built to last for ever!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Power Play: Rules of the Game

It was the transit of the International Airport at Colombo. She was waiting for her turn to be called for the flight to Cochin. It was a long and tedious day after hours of flying and waiting. She was in her early thirties, tall, dark and beautiful. She tried to focus on the Grisham novel at hand, having an eye on her baggage. It was then that she was drawn towards the sudden hustle.

The flight to Chennai had been announced some time back. Chennai being her home town, she was thinking about her plans to meet her friends and relatives there as the announcement was made. So, she turned to look at the scurrying Airport official as he whizzed past her, commenting to his colleague: “The flight to Chennai was supposed to have left half an hour back; what the heck are they still doing?”

Her eyes fell on a group of five people – three men and two women – at the far end of the lounge, towards whom the officer was rushing with his colleague. It wasn’t exactly clear as to what they were doing there, but she could make out that they were in a hurry – and that they weren’t very comfortable in doing whatever they were doing. She felt that it was not a normal scene in an airport. She put Grisham aside, got up, pulled her trolley bag and started strolling towards the commotion there.

The officer had reached the gang of five and he was telling something – and he was clearly tense, as he was pointing towards his watch. The bearded man in the group seemed apologetic of something and was handling the officer, while another man was rushing things up.

As she walked closer, pacing slightly, she could see cartons of a popular brand of cigarettes being opened by the rest of the gang. They were being taken off the carton and were repacked – in 8 or 9 suitcases that were with the gang. She could see that the packets were covered in cloth and were distributed equally in all the suitcases. It was a lot of cigarettes. What were they up to?

As she walked faster towards them, the colleague of the airport officer noted her attention towards the scene. He turned around immediately and started pacing towards her. She knew that he was walking towards her. She wondered if she should act as if she was casually browsing through the lounge, but couldn’t really make her mind up. By then, he had arrived.

“Yes, ma’am, what can I do for you?”

“Well, nothing, I was just killing time strolling around and . . .”

“Would you please be seated in the designated areas? It would be better if you could oblige!”

His voice bordered on intimidation. It was almost a stern order. She could see from his badge that he belonged to Airline X-Air that she used to fly frequently in. And he was standing in such a way that he blocked her view of the commotion at the other end. Still, she could see that the unpacking and repacking were all but done by then and one of the women was now carrying the empty cartons towards the rest room. They were smugglers!

The woman came back, joined the rest of the gang that was now heading towards the Gate. And they left to board the Chennai bound flight, which was actually delayed, as she could see now, to take these smugglers in!

“Would you get to your seat ma’am?”

Her thoughts were interrupted by the impatient voice of the officer. The other officer who was with the gang was accosting her now. And she wanted no trouble in foreign soil. She turned back and walked silently back to the lounge. She could hear the two officers discussing something behind her back.

As she got back to where she was seated, still in shock at the cold blooded smuggling of cigarettes, with two abettors of X-Air, she felt more disturbed as a scene ran through her mind now.

It was at her port of origin the day before, in the Middle East, that she saw a man pleading with an officer of X-Air at the baggage check-in counter. She was awaiting her turn then as the man, obviously from the working class, and apparently getting back to India on his holiday, was pleading to take a small pack along with his baggage.

The officers at the counter were ruthless.

“This weighs more than what you can carry, my friend. Rules are rules! You either pay for your excess baggage or drop the bag here and proceed!”

After almost a quarter of an hour of argument in vain, the man took the bag back, walked with dejection written all over his face, with drooping shoulders, towards the garbage bin near her. He dropped the bag in the bin and went to the baggage counter, got his boarding pass and proceeded without looking back.

Curiously, she peeped into the garbage bin to see what he had dropped. And in the bin, she could see a father’s love, a husband’s affection, a part of a poor man’s dream. There were sweets and savouries and snacks almost filling the garbage sack.

As she looked for the man again, he was ambling with his hand baggage towards the security checks. And she could almost hear him desperately trying to invent a consolation for his family and kids as to why he couldn’t care to buy a single sweet or chocolate for them, getting back home after years of sacrifice!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Call for Justice – and an unknownVoice!

I have been criss-crossing different places in the Southern States the past few days when a road-side banner caught my attention.

Banners and hoardings have become integral to the way of life of the Indian citizen. The day all posters and bills are banned by law would leave a feeling of vacuum in the minds of the commuter. Tough, it is, to imagine clean roads and white walls with no stickers whatsoever.

So, I wouldn’t really have expected to spend a post on a roadside scribbling. However, this one was different. It was not the regular “Long Live our Hero” kind of message, nor was it about the ‘call for rising’ by a political wannabe. It was not against MNC’s that affected the lives of the local manufacturers. It wasn’t even about India!

“Suspend the Death sentence to Saddam Hussein!” read the banner.

It occupied almost 10 feet in length and was bold, in colour, in block letters. It wasn’t attributed to any organisation in particular. There were no by-lines. It wasn’t addressed to anyone.

I was left wondering about the reasons that could have gone into the banner. Who was that supposed to be for? Was the International Court of Justice or the World Police, the United States of A, supposed to take note of it in a small town in southern India? Which organisations could have been moved by the sentence to the ousted Dictator? It didn’t seem to be from some Human Rights organisation – there weren’t obvious reasons for such an organisation to remain anonymous. The wordings were in local language – I have translated it in here.

If there were no motives behind the banner, was it merely a medium of expression of personal or organisational opinion? Was it being aimed at the casual commuter? What was it that was supposed to be achieved by that?

I could see no selfish intentions behind the voice. In fact, there just didn’t seem to be any intention at all! Is there something to be read in between the lines at all? Was it really writing on the wall?