- 16 May 2022
The Tanishq controversy has yet again raised pointed questions at the intent of Tatas. While Tatas have been the Nationalist figure in the country, their past is ladened with controversies from which Ratan Tata have come out surprisingly unstained always. A look at these controversies indicate that no other Man in India could have come out of this as flawless.
The Tanishq controversy and nationwide boycott calls have again put Tatas in the controversy dock. This raises the pertinent question, “Are Tatas above criticism?”
Be it antinational slogans raised in TISS, Tata’s direct links with banned terrorist organisation ULFA, the infamous Radia Tapes or Money Laundering charges by ED, Tata is a name that has always come out unstained and clean.
Links of Tea and Terror
Tata Tea is the second largest tea company in India after Hindustan Lever Ltd. With partnership of James Finlay & Co Glasgow, UK, was formed in 1962. The company presently owns many tea plantations and factories at Kakajan in Assam and in Munnar.
In August 1997, Pranati Deka, a central committee member of United Liberation Front of Assam was arrested by Mumbai Police. She had come to Mumbai for treatment of Leukemia but when she was arrested, it was found that she had contact details of an executive of Tata Tea. The executive in the question was Brajen Gogoi who had paid for her medical expense and hotel bills. The response of Tata was along the anticipated line - the organization didn't know the real identity of Deka and she availed the medical treatment under a scheme which was launched by Tata Tea for residents of Assam.
Charges were pressed against company's welfare officer Brojen Gogoi. Gogoi was reported to be in Harvard when police started looking for him as he had accompanied Deka. He returned to India on September 6 but Ratan Tata was still telling Assam CM on September 15 that Gogoi was in US, despite the fact that Gogoi had checked in a company guest house in Kolkata on September 6.
It's important to note that as per the admission of Paresh Barua, Chief of ULFA, he had met Tata Tea GM, SS Dogra in 1995 in Bangkok. A scheme was negotiated between them under which Deka was later given the medical treatment. Barua told in the same interview that Tata Tea wasn't willing to pay the money directly like the other companies, so they had to go for alternative options.
When the whole incident became known, Tata Tea Managing Director and General Manager were interrogated by Assam Police. S S Dogra was arrested by the police.
The Assam Government while commenting on the Tata Tea/ULFA controversy, in 1997 said, "The lack of security cannot be an excuse for the industry to help the militants financially."
No BIS hallmark Registration for Tanishq
Tanishq is a brand of Titan. Titan is a venture of Tata Group of companies. Tanishq, a nationwide jewellery brand has ironically no BIS certification. Basically Tanishq is selling an uncertified gold when it comes to purity. As per reports, Tanishq doesn’t feature in the BIS licensed list of 25838 jewellers across the country. The company however provides a certificate of authentication by Titan, the parent company but no BIS certification of the gold’s purity.
According to the rule passed by Consumer Affairs Ministry, if the company wants to continue selling gold ornaments for 14, 18 and 22 carat gold, it has to get BIS certification before 15th January 2021. It is shocking that such a large company has not got standard certification. Does it also raise questions on the quality of Gold they are selling?
Leaked TATA Tapes
When all this was happening, a tape was released in media by Indian Express, in which Ratan Tata, Nusli Wadia and few others were persuading the central government to restrain Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the then CM of Assam to not go after Tata Tea. Chairman of Bombay Dyeing and director Tata Sons, Nusli Wadia is Mohammad Ali Jinnah's grandson and close to Ratan Tata.
The tapes also revealed that Tata knew the whereabouts of Gogoi when police was looking for him. It's not known whether the Central government intervened or not but when Mahanta lost next election in 1998, the case was quietly buried in the pages of history.
The Indian Express tapes, indicated that Tatas could have withheld damaging evidence from the Assam Police. The evidence pointed to whereabouts of Brojen Gogoi. Gogoi was arrested later in 2013 for "conspiracy to overawe the lawfully established Government in association with the activists of the banned ULFA".
Read the full Transcript of Tapes here
Nira Radia Tapes and Tata connection
While the famous 'Radia Tapes, showed an authorative woman influencing policy by influencing governmental appointments, controlling politicians, journalists like pawns in a game of Chess, destroyed their reputation and sent many of them into jail for corruption. Yet somehow the entire controversy didn’t do much damage to her alleged boss, Ratan Tata. As usual the Man came out of it without getting his reputation scratched.
In one of the Radia Tapes, the way then Telecom Minister A Raja and Praful Patel are being addressed by Ratan Tata, it is suggestive that these figures were mere peons for the Towering personality of Tata.
Image File : Venkat and Radia Coversations, Nira Radia Tapes
Nira Radia’s conversations with Ratan Tata’s PA Venkat reveals about an Electoral Trust with which they fund Political Parties of UPA 2 like Congress and DMK. It also mentions about Congress Supremo Sonia Gandhi being agreement to it. The Tapes reveal that Ratan Tata wanted the trustees of the Trust to print a statement that even though the Trust was funded by Tata Group, the Trustees should declare that the Trust is an independent entity.
Around 5800 Tapes were tapped by IT department in 2008-09, concerning Nira Radia. The transcript of few tapes can be read here
Nira Radia also featured in the infamous Panama Papers, as director of two offshore companies in Malta, Suez La Vallette Limited and Pegasus International Advisors Limited.
Air Asia Money Laundering
Air Asia, a Tata Group joint venture was found lobbying in the government to secure Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance via non-transparent means. ED alleged that Air Asia was given a No Objection Certificate and a modification was made to the strict 5/20 rule. The 22 crore fraud charges were first levelled by ousted Chairman of the Tata Group, Cyrus Mistry.
Image File : Subramanian Swamy’s Letter to Rakesh Asthana
The forensic audit report on financial transactions of the Tata Group by Deloitte states of a financial irregularity of more than Rs 22 crore in Air Asia operations, agreeing with Mistry’s charges. “The Tata Sons under the leadership of Ratan Tata had engaged in corrupt hawala routed action with a Dubai based resident Hamid Reza Malakotipour, whom the US Government has classified as ‘A Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ for his suspected terrorist activities,” said Swamy in a letter to Rakesh Asthana, the then acting CBI Director in 2016. A petition has also been filed in HC against Ratan Tata by Subramanian Swamy concerning this matter.
Tatas surface in the Coal Gate Scam and Augusta Westland Scam
As per the CAG Report on Coal Scam, the biggest beneficiaries in the scam were three Tata Group companies including Tata Steel, responsible for 1.8 lakh crores loss to the Indian Taxpayer. The role of then Défense secretary Vijay Singh was exposed by Cyrus Mistry. According to Mistry, Vijay Singh was instrumental in the 3600 crores scam. The same Vijay Singh ironically becomes director of Tata Sons later. The Tatas offset deal in Augusta Westland was similar to that of Ambani in the Rafale deal, yet somehow no section of Media seemed concerned on Tata’s alleged involvement in the scam.
Even in the Rafale deal the Safran group which has got 8600 cr deal along with Dassault had major partnership with Tatas and indirect beneficiary are the Tatas. Tatas have much larger indirect share in the Rafale deal as compared to Ambani who has just 3 percent share. Did Media ever question Tatas?
Image File : Offset figures of the Rafale deal
Image File : Evidence of Tata Trust funding The Wire
Ratan Tata is that balancing Tycoon, who unlike Ambani, enjoys the Tag of a Nationalist even after heavily funding anti governmental core leftist portals like The Wire and EPW. He is the apple of eye of the Indian Right as well as the dearly darling of the Left. Nobody ever speaks against Mr. Tata, the you know who in the Indian Media.
Ironically the same Nira Radia is now back with Tata Group, handling communication strategies of Tata Tea. For Tata she is the Ekatvam that will bail him out against the rival Cyrus Mistry. Nira Radia is that corporate lobbyist who has been equally connected with all political parties. Why else the CBI dropped all charges on her?
By controlling Political parties, deciding policies in a government, seeing to the ministerial appointments, making Media do his bidding, Ratan Tata is the typical corporate Tycoon out there. He is no different from the rest as often portrayed and the immunity cloak he enjoys is a veil that still runs on legacy of Jamshet ji Tata, Father of Industrial revolution in India. It is high time the country wakes up and accepts the simple fact that Tatas cannot be above criticism in a democracy.
This article uses helpful inputs and research by Satish Verma.
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