Monday, 29 November 2010

Ta ta to Tata's clean image.

The question that always puzzled me was why Indians maintained that the Tatas were above corruption. This begged the question of how anyone could operate in India- let alone on the mammoth scale of the Conglomerate- and remain clean. Indeed, if they weren't paying bribes it would be evidence that they possessed an insider advantage denied their competitors, not to speak of the aam aadmi who had to pay bribes for every little thing.
 In other words not paying bribes, in a corrupt country, is only evidence of saintliness if your are actually starving- clearly not the case with the Tatas.
Ratan Tata told a story of how he missed out on launching an internal airline, in a tie-up with Singapore Airlines, back in the 90's because he wouldn't pay a 15 crore bribe. But, on examination, what he actually said was that a fellow industrialist told him 15 crore was the price and Tata mumbled something in reply about wanting to sleep at night with a good conscience. No Minister had actually dared ask for money from Tata.

Interestingly, it was through the Singapore Airline thing that Tata met Nira Radia. whom he helped get to the position that she is in today. Radia was close to the BJP Civil Aviation Minister, Ananth Kumar, and- though her father had converted to Islam- also had ties to a Hindu godman. Perhaps, Ratan Tata thought of her (she speaks to him in a girlish English Public School accent) as an acceptable liaison with the Hindutva regime that appeared to be going from strength to strength.
Even if Tata never used Radia to influence policy- the fact remains that her stratospheric corporate rise owed much to her connection with Tata.
What Tata seems to be saying is 'We're Tatas. We're entitled. We don't have to pay bribes like other Johnny-come-latelies. We wouldn't even know how to go about doing it. That's why we hired Nira Radia. She keeps track of that sort of thing for us. From time to time, I go on TV or whatever to say 'We're Tatas we don't pay bribes because India owes us. We're entitled. Just hand over the resources in question and shut the fuck up.'
Shut the fuck up or else what? Might the Tatas say ta ta to India? Fat chance! India has to pay for their follies overseas- like their Jaguar Land Rover acquisition.
So it's ta ta to Tata's clean image- and a good thing to. Ratan Tata's successor will be able to get down and dirty, same as the other robber barons, and perhaps then there would be less need not just for the Nira Radias of this world but also this pretense of journalistic integrity and N.G.O probity and P.I.L purity that has so poisoned public discourse.
On a more positive note- one of Nira's sons appears to have been kidnapped by her business partner back in 2001 and held for ransom. The plucky lad got free and escaped to tell the tale. Strangely, the kidnapper- despite being the grandson of a C.M- even saw a little jail time. What I thought funny was that the business partner had lured Nira's son on the pretext of showing him a revolutionary new phone tapping device- the family's fated nemesis it appears- except of course the lad got free as, no doubt, will Nira Radia.

As for the Tatas- the truth is, their 'clean image' knocked points off their share rating- so what Ratanbhai has been doing is signaling that he has a jajmani hold- a high caste prerogative- over the Night Soil carriers of Indian political life. So he is 'touchable'- because the media bhangis are in his debt, and can be hung out to dry at his say so- and therefore his brand should continue to command a premium. After all the dastoors from whom he is descended count as equal to Brahmins.
Unlike the Hindu Brahmins, the Iranian Magi refused to permit middle castes to learn to read and write. There is a story of a great merchant who offered the Shah the gold he needed to defeat the foreign invader in return for permission for his sons to learn Pahlavi. The offer was turned down. In India, there was never a monopoly on literacy. To begin, most Pandeys and Pujaris were illiterate- they had a monopoly of chanting some stuff- not on the language or on scription.
The Tata's relationship with the Media is now under the microscope. What really stands out is the staggering sense of entitlement and hereditary privilege the Tatas glory in. Suddenly Rahul Baba looks pretty small potatoes. Mayatwatiji is quite wrong to say Rahul takes bath after visiting Dalit home. Rahul is a political bhangi. People of Mayawati's caste take bath after meeting bhangis of his sort.
I, of course, am not a bhangi. I never clean my toilet or wipe my own arse- to leave a protruding turd is all the rage in literary circles here in London- and it is to appeal to High Caste Hindutva sentiments that I pen these lines.

The fact is- Rahul's paternal grandfather's father was probably a Hindu and in any case his paternal grandmother's family weren't quite quite- if you know what I mean.
So, it's perfectly all right if the Tatas use him as a bhangi. In any case there is a convenient Dalit- a man of the highest education, intelligence, loyalty and personal integrity- one moreover a dark-skinned 'Madrasi' like myself- to take the fall.
It's all Varnashrama Dharma don't you know.
Nobody can escape the consequences of their lowly birth.
Equally, Tatas- merely by birth- escape all contagion of dirty corruption.


T.J said...

I wouldn't say a premium on Tata shares- at least Internationally traded ones- would arise under the circumstances you mention.
I'd be interested to know why you might think so.

windwheel said...

Fair comment- I think the line you reference is- 'the truth is, their 'clean image' knocked points off their share rating'- and, clearly, that's not the sort of thing which is quantified and discussed.

A better way of putting it would have been 'concern to maintain 'a clean image' impacted in such and such a way on their profitability'.
In terms of sentiment, a gloves off approach ought, in any case, to translate into higher expected profitability.

There are some more specific points- I guess the real focus of your question- but I've just heard stuff rather than studied things for myself whereas you're probably way ahead of me there.
If you reckon things pretty much cancel themselves out in this particular- I'll be guided by you having no axe to grind for myself.
Do please feel free to clarify this for the benefit of other readers.