A mild-mannered PR person working for the Tatas hanged himself recently. How high are the stakes for companies?
A rather chilling blog post, reproducing a letter from nine journalists (including the Forbes India ex-editor and president of the Press Club of Mumbai) to Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry, chairman of the Tata group, has sent shock waves among journalists. After all, it involves India’s most blue-chip group and the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande, a former journalist colleague, who successfully switched to PR over a decade ago.
The mild-mannered Charu (as he was known) joined Tata Steel a year ago after a long stint with ICICI Bank and Mahindra & Mahindra. He had resigned from TISCO a month before his suicide on 28th June. The letter says that Charu was accused of ‘leaking’ confidential documents to journalists for a Cover Story titled “Remoulding Tata Steel”; that he was confined under virtual ‘house arrest’ for two weeks in Jamshedpur and repeatedly threatened. The journalists allege that there was a concerted attempt by “Tata Steel officials and the PR agency to pass off his death as a heart attack, and not a suicide.”
Interestingly, there seems nothing in the Forbes Cover Story to warrant such an extreme reaction from the Tatas. Chairman Cyrus Mistry has responded to the journalists’ request to ‘institute a proper inquiry’ and assured that he has put in place an ‘appropriate mechanism’ to look into their allegations and take necessary action. But this is clearly a test for the new chairman.
Ratan Tata was always hypersensitive to media criticism, a fact that even the Tata group’s high-profile lobbyist Niira Radia is heard acknowledging in a leaked phone conversation. Cyrus Mistry is very low profile and little is known about him as a person.
The Tatas have not exactly covered themselves in glory in the 2G scam and will be subject to close media scrutiny in the future too. Cyrus Mistry’s actions in connection with Charu’s suicide will indicate whether the Tatas are now even more paranoid about the media. Or will they make amends after what happened with Charu—if it was a tragic aberration—by turning more open and practical about negative publicity or criticism, when warranted.
Samir Zaveri, is a rare hero. After losing both his legs in a railway accident at the age of 16, he has dedicated his life to help railway victims. Last week, Mr Zaveri was recognised as one of Mumbai’s top five heroes by Mumbai Mirror. Moneylife Foundation, which started the Coalition for Safe Rail Travel (CSRT) as a loose network of people and organisations interested in railway passenger safety felicitated him
At a meeting of the Coalition for Safe Rail Travel CSRT meeting held on 6 July 2013, Moneylife Foundation felicitated Samir Zaveri on being recognised at a true Mumbai hero by Mumbai Mirror.
Samir Zaveri is an extraordinary activist who has dedicated his life to helping railway accident victims and passengers over the past 20 years without expecting anything I return. Zaveri lost both is legs at the age of 16, when a local train hit him near Borivali. As he says, he would almost certainly have almost died, if someone had not helped him and rushed him to hospital in that first crucial ‘golden hour’ when so many victims simply bleed to death. Ever since, he has been striving to help railway victims – his mission has now gone far beyond merely saving lives. Apart from medical care for accident victims, it extends to helping them get compensation. He got the Railways to install medical facilities at Dadar station through an order from the Bombay High Court, which also ordered payments to private hospitals (to ensure that victims are taken to the nearest hospital) and to ambulance services and helpers, in order to ensure they make haste to help.
He single-handedly does more to push for safe rail travel than other activists put together. His transport is a scooter with sidecar. He uses RTI and litigation effectively to expose the loot and corruption and demand better medical facilities at stations. Corrupt sections of the railway police have filed false civil and criminal cases against him because he has busted their illegal railway court at Kurla Station, through which the railway police used to arrest people travelling with their savings and used to release them on fake bail bonds.
Samir has witnessed the callousness of the Railways, Railway Protection Force (RPF) and even state-managed Government Railway Police (GRP) on several occasions. He even faced the wrath of the Railways and Police for his tireless, never giving up spirit and humble attitude and has now won the case against the Railways and Police.
If anyone asks the ever-optimistic and cheerful Samir Zaveri what they can do to help – he has a stock answer -“All I need is support”. Moneylife Foundation decided to do this by creating a platform for like- minded activists to network and coordinate for the cause of helping railway passengers. The Coalition for Safe Rail Travel meets on every first Saturday of the month at Moneylife’s Knowledge Centre at Dadar. Among its active supporters are veteran activist, Dipak Gandhi, chairman of the Mumbai Suburban Passengers’ Association, activist Gaurang Damani and others. To know more details, click here. Those interested in being a part of this group may please write to Moneylife Foundation at [email protected]. You can also join our Facebook page and Twitter account @SafeRailTravel.
Like Samir Zaveri, you are invited to become a Moneylife Foundation member today. Also enjoy 16 free benefits on registering as a Foundation member. Click here for free membership.