Thursday, November 18, 2010

Should Ratan Tata have uttered the ‘B’ word?

Some days ago, in a reminiscent mood, Ratan Tata had expressed a regret that he could not form an airline, that his repeated efforts, in 1995, 1997 and 2001, for that had failed because of stiff opposition to his proposal by a very determined person and also because of Tata’s refusal to pay a bribe of Rupees fifteen crore reportedly demanded by a Union minister. The unnamed minister’s avarice did not shock, what shocked was that even the celebrated House of Tatas, which is known for its scrupulous ways of doing business, was not spared. But, if after so many years Tata thought it fit to recount the experience, he should have gone the whole hog and named the minister – these were my first thoughts when I heard the television news. But the next day there was a clarification, Ratan Tata said that on a plane journey many years ago his co-passenger, himself an industrialist, had ridiculed him for not paying the fifteen crore bribe to the particular minister and thus forgoing his chance of setting up an airline in the country, Tata’s long held dream.

This was not fair on Ratan Tata’s part to bring into disrepute an unnamed Union minister, obviously in-charge of Civil Aviation, and that on hearsay. What made it worse was that between 1995 and 2001, when Tata finally gave up the idea of establishing an airline, there had been four different governments at the Centre and five-six different persons, one now dead, as Civil Aviation minister one after the other. By not naming the offending minister Tata has put all these persons in the arc of suspicion. That may not have been his original intention but this is how it has panned out. And what did he get in turn for his labours, some tongues clucking in sympathy? It was, definitely, not worth your while, Mr. Tata!

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