Written by Global Citizen

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Freedom. Sweet Taste of freedom. Seems to be returning at long last amongst hundreds of thousands of employees of the Tata Group of India.

Libyans may be experiencing an uncertain phase regarding this fleeting taste of freedom as Gaddafi-backed forces lash out against civilians demonstrating against his regime, however the signs are palpably positive in corridors of the ninety-odd Tata Group firms.

They surely have been sensing signs that the clutches of Radia-empire that stifled them from the society and the media to be weakening within the empire. They relish this beginning of professional freedom of speech at last. The employees are thankful to Mohammed Bouazizi, the vendor from Tunisia, who started it with his life. It has not been a waste for the Tata Group.

A brief historical understanding is needed for people who may have superficial knowledge of the Tata Group, more so for those specific lot of Western Journalists who don't hesitate to write on this iconic group in global media as soon as they start parachuting down on India, or may be even from abroad - without ever understanding and visiting India.

Tata Group had not been so suffocating for professionals in past as such. On the contrary, it rather was the opposite, in spite of being a house-owned business with monarchy like succession. One probably could have disagreed with JRD Tata (man before Ratan Tata) and even reach the top and be be a member of the Board of Tata Sons.

However good times don't last for ever.

All that professional glory associated with Tata Group eventually changed as Ratan Tata increased his tenure at the top, as leaders of the Arab World did. For Hosni Mubarak, it took thirty years; for Gaddafi - it's been forty-two years; and for Ratan Tata - it's been twenty years.

Inside information show that Ratan Tata as such has always been an excellent man - with all managerial qualities and with a great sense of ethics. That explains why Mr. Ratan Tata didn't bomb Outlook or Open offices (magazines that leaked Radia-tapes) as he had that opportunity when he flew in an F/A 18 Super Hornet (remember that there was no 'no fly zone' over those offices as it is being debated in Libya) back in February 2011. After all - Mr. Ratan Tata is not Colonel Gaddafi.

However things started going wrong as soon as Niira Radia entered Tata Group. Smart people do crazy things when they come in association with Radia-like woman. A group that mostly stood for good corporate governance started floundering on it from that moment she entered the Group. The entry of Niira Radia itself remained an unsolved puzzle for researchers, as inside sources now reveal.

No satisfactory answer emerged as of now - in spite of the credible spoof research - on the nature of the door through which Niira Radia had entered this iconic group. It is more likely to be through the back door because no visitor of that name ever entered Tata Group firms from the front door - as revealed by an extensive search of the computerized visitors lists of that period across all Tata premises.

So how bad was this lack of freedom of speech period in Tata Group? Professionals were gagged as no body could open their lips without a permission of Niira-Ma'am. It suffices to say that grown-up adult professionals, including CEOs of large divisions of Tata Group, had less freedom of speech than what my son of class three (9-years) enjoys at school. What I understand from primary school experience of my son is that they start chatting as soon as their Ma'am gets into something else or leaves the room; however that freedom was badly missing to the heads of all the PR teams of Tata group of companies. 'Head down' meant head down - 'silence' meant absolute silence - it was after all Niira Ma'am.

Going by the credibility or lack of it in mainstream Indian media, it is presumed that discretionary readers of The Spoof would always ask for evidence of above lack of freedom of speech allegations in Tata Group; ignoring the credibility that The Spoof correspondents anyway offer. So here are a few of those evidences that Spoof never fails to produce:

Outlook, in an article stated following on this lack of freedom of speech within Tata Group:

'...initially there was considerable scepticism about her (Ms. Niira Radia) abilities and the "hold" she had on the Tata supremo. But all that died down when everyone quickly figured out that "rnt (Ratan Tata) will not hear one bad word about her".

And here's what an ex-Reuters journalist wrote on how Muthuraman, the erstwhile MD of iconic Tata Steel that acquired Corus during his tenure, responded meekly 'yes ma'am' to Niira Radia in a media-attended event. Radia had power of final say over Tata Group CEOs, even for Tata Steel MD (Mr. Muthuraman here) as Reuters journo describes the event. Here's another such conversation between them that show what went on Muthuraman's mind as he spoke with Madam Radia.

There were umpteen other news reports during that period which stated 'The Group did not respond to the media query' or something similar. The reason was, as revealed now from inside sources, is the group companies had no choice but to forward the query to Ma'am - and she preferred to engage in Government formation for the benefit of her clients than spending her valuable time on clarifying such trivial media queries.

So that was the lack of freedom of speech period for CEOs in Tata Group, and lack of professional freedom for the top brass of the management team in it, which, in a metaphorical sense is akin to the lack of freedom, and lack of freedom of speech even for Generals of Gaddafi's army. One can imagine the inhuman suffering the man of the street - an ordinary citizen in Libya or an ordinary employee at Tata Group had to suffer. It was all about 'Yes Ma'am' to Niira Radia as "rnt will not hear one bad word about her".

Since November onwards, when the Radia-leaks happened in India, there's been jubiliation amongst ranks and files of the Tata Group employees, to many of its boardrooms. Although Mr. Ratan Tata verbally and legally attacked Outlook and Open Magazine (for leaking the tapes), a vast majority of Tata-employees, including some of the erstwhile influential CEOs within the Group, were visibly jubilant. On condition of anonymity, as there's been a fear of professional backlash in their careers within the Tata Group, many informed this reporter that they sent sweet packets to the editors of both those two magazines, and also to Anil Ambani.

Things need further elaboration for non-Indian readers to understand this character called Anil Ambani. He is the younger son of Late Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of India's biggest private firm - Reliance Industries. It broke into two after his death. Mukesh, the elder son is deeply philosophical in his heart, and believes in the Sanskrit Proverb that means - 'do your work, forget about the result'. To be the single inheritor of Reliance dynasty, Mukesh wanted his younger brother Anil to be kicked out of the Reliance dynasty, post the death of their father Dhirubhai. However he did not fully succeed in doing so as Anil cried 'Mummy'.

Mukesh always keeps his cool in all his endeavors. Leaked tapes show how he hated to show his emotions while robbing the nation of its natural resources like gas and oil. While Mukesh believed in doing his work of robbing the nation without emotion, his younger brother always cried 'mummy' whenever he saw his brother denying him his legitimate share of the Reliance empire, and 'SEBI' (equivalent to SEC) whenever his companies share prices fell.

So a desperate Anil found a way of tapping Niira Radia telephone through a genuine or forged letter to the Government of India, as some sources state. And then it got leaked. Rest is history.

However never in his wildest imagination Anil probably thought that the skeletons in the cupboard would also cover some of his own.

However all bad things, too, eventually come to an end, as we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt. Coming back to this sweet taste of freedom as now being re-tested by Tata Group employees, it started when company PR chiefs could comment online without the permission of Niira Radia Ma'am. A comment in CNN showed how a publication from Wharton (which unlike Harvard, has not probably received money from Ratan Tata, as LSE did from Col. Gaddaffi) has been critical on Nano - and the PR head of Tata Motors discharged his duty, albeit a bit over-enthusiastically, by denying that comment.

The story behind this change of heart of Ratan Tata to empower the PR teams of their respective companies to do their job and have more freedom is full with myths of epic proportions. Spoof correspondent from beyond the earth and life confirmed that while laying a floral tribute on the 172nd birth day of the Group founder Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, Ratan had a trance-like situation. Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata was apparently at pain at the recent questionable developments within the Group, and thereby sent a message to Ratan to distance himself from Niira Radia, and commanded Ratan to reinstate the professional freedom that his employees badly needed. Mr. Ratan Tata, however, neither confirmed nor denied this heavenly incident, when asked by the Spoof Team.

Although almost every one of the big Tata family is happy about this development, Anil Ambani is not convinced. He threatened to move to SEBI on this forward looking statement on profitability of Nano issued by the PR head of Tata Motors on Nano, as Mr. Ambani feels strongly against such disclosure practices. 'It should come from the CFO or the CEO' - not from the PR head, stated Anil Ambani. Junior Ambani also pointed out to another report at the WSJ that stated 'Still auto parts makers say Tata has to sell many more Nanos for everyone to break even on the project.' 'So if it is not breaking even for parts suppliers - how could it already be profitable for overall Nano' - asked Mr. Ambani. He also hinted at a collusion to mis-inform shareholders of Tata Motors that is bringing down share prices of his own firms, following the 'Butterfly Effect'

Most others however is ready to overlook the content of the comment - one can make a comment online without 'Ma'am's' permission demands jubilation - they say.

Spoof understands such jubilation is a part of the success as it has been observed earlier by Spoof correspondents from the Tahrir Square. Spoof also wishes Tata Group employees luck in their struggle to get absolute professional freedom of speech, from their decades of suffering under Radia-regime in Tata Group. Indian media may be corrupt and Tata Group employees may have been let down by them, however Spoof can give this assurance to Tata Group employees that it would also stand by human rights, freedom of speech and ethical practices.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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