Friday, February 10, 2012

Zoroastrianism in action in the real world: The TATAS and Jamshedpur

Zoroastrianism in action in the real world: The TATAS and Jamshedpur

(This is Zoroastrianism in action, making the world a better place.
This is why, although we are Indians, the Parsees are indeed different
from the rest of the people in India, and why we must preserve our
unique identity).

 Following is a note written by Lakshmi Mittal after his visit to TISCO recently.

"........I visited Jamshedpur over the weekend to see for myself an
India that is fast disappearing despite all the wolf-cries of people 
like Narayanamurthy and his ilk. It is one thing to talk and quite 
another to do and I am delighted to tell you that Ratan Tata has kept
alive the legacy of perhaps India's finest industrialist J.N. Tata.
Something that some people doubted when Ratan took over the House 
of the Tata's but in hindsight, the best thing to have happened 
to the Tata's is unquestionably Ratan. I was amazed to 
see the extent of corporate philanthropy and this is no exaggeration.

For the breed that talks about corporate social responsibility and
talks about the role of corporate India, a visit to Jamshedpur is a 
must. Go there and see the amount of money they pump into keeping 
the town going; see the smiling faces of workers in a region known
for industrial unrest; see the standard of living in a city that is
almost isolated from the mess in the rest of the country.

This is not meant to be a puff piece. I have nothing to do with Tata
Steel, but I strongly believe the message of hope and the message 
of goodness that they are spreading is worth sharing. The fact 
that you do have companies in India which look at workers as
human beings and who do not blow their software trumpet of having
changed lives. In fact, I asked Mr. Muthuraman, the managing 
director, as to why he was so quiet about all they had
done and all he could offer in return was a smile wrapped in humility,
which said it all. They have done so much more since I last 
visited Jamshedpur, which was in 1992. The town has
obviously got busier but the values thankfully haven't changed.

The food is still as amazing as it always was and I gorged, as I would
normally do. I visited the plant and the last time I did that was 
with Russi Mody. But the plant this time was gleaming and far from 
what it used to be.

Greener and cleaner and a tribute to environment management. You could 
have been in the mountains. Such was the quality of air I inhaled! 
There was no belching smoke; no tired faces and so many more women 
workers, even on the shop floor. This is true gender equality 
and not the kind that is often espoused at seminars organised
by angry activists. I met so many old friends. Most of them 
have aged but not grown old. There was a spring in the air 
which came from a certain calmness which has always been the 
hallmark of Jamshedpur and something I savoured for a full two 
days in between receiving messages of how boring and decrepit 
the lack lustre Fashion Week was.

Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata had created an edifice that is today 
a robust company and it is not about profits and about valuation. 
It is not about who becomes a millionaire and who doesn't'. It 
is about getting the job done with dignity and respect keeping 
the age-old values intact and this is what I learnt.

I jokingly asked someone as to whether they ever thought of joining an
Infosys or a Wipro and pat came the reply: "We are not interested 
in becoming crorepatis [millionaires] but in making others crorepatis [millionaires]."

Which is exactly what the Tata's have done for years in and around Jamshedpur.
Very few people know that Jamshedpur has been selected as a UN Global
Compact City, edging out the other nominee from India, Bangalore. 
Selected because of the quality of life, because of the conditions 
of sanitation and roads and welfare. If this is not a tribute to
industrial India, then what is? Today, India needs several Jamshedpurs
but it also needs this Jamshedpur to be given its fair due, its 
recognition. I am tired of campus visits being publicised to the 
Infosys and the Wipro's of the world.

Modern India is being built in Jamshedpur as we speak. An India built
on the strength of core convictions and nothing was more apparent 
about that than the experiment with truth and reality that 
Tata Steel is conducting at Pipla.

Forty-eight tribal girls (yes, tribal girls who these corrupt and evil
politicians only talk about but do nothing for) are being educated 
through a residential program over nine months. I went to visit them 
and I spoke to them in a language that they have just learnt:
Bengali. Eight weeks ago, they could only speak in Sainthali, their
local dialect. But today, they are brimming with a confidence 
that will bring tears to your eyes. It did to mine. One of them 
has just been selected to represent Jharkand in the state archery
competition. They have their own women's football team and what's more
they are now fond of education. It is a passion and not a burden.

This was possible because I guess people like Ratan Tata and Muthurman haven't
sold their souls to some business management drivel, which tells us
that we must only do business and nothing else. The fact that not 
one Tata executive has been touched by the Naxalites in that area 
talks about the social respect that the Tata'shave earned.

The Tata's do not need this piece to be praised and lauded. My intent
is to share the larger picture that we so often miss in the haze of 
the slime and sleaze that politics imparts. My submissions to those 
who use phrases such as "feel-good" and "India Shining" is first
visit Jamshedpur to understand what it all means. See Tata Steel in
action to know what companies can do if they wish to. And 
what corporate India needs to do.

Murli Manohar Joshi would be better off seeing what Tata Steel has
done by creating the Xavier Institute of Tribal Education rather 
than by proffering excuses for the imbroglio in the IIMs. This 
is where the Advanis and Vajpayees need to pay homage.
Not to all the Sai Babas and the Hugging saints that they 
are so busy with. India is changing inspite of them and 
they need to realise that.

I couldn't have spent a more humane and wonderful weekend. Jamshedpur
is an eyeopener and a role model, which should be made mandatory 
for replication. I saw corporate India actually participate in basic 
nation-building, for when these tribal girls go back to their
villages, they will return with knowledge that will truly be
life-altering. Corporate India can do it but most of the time 
is willing to shy away.

For those corporate leaders who are happier winning awards and 
being interviewed on their choice of clothes, my advise is visit 
Tata Steel, spend some days at Jamshedpur and see a nation's 
transformation. That is true service and true nationalism.

Tata Steel will celebrate 100 years of existence in 2007. It won't be
just a milestone in this company's history. It will be a milestone, 
to my mind of corporate transparency and generosity in this country. 
It is indeed fitting that Ratan Tata today heads a group which has
people who are committed to nation-building than just building
influence and power.

JRD must be smiling wherever he is. And so must Jamshedji Nusserwanji. 
These people today have literally climbed every last blue mountain. 
And continue to do so with vigour and passion. Thank god for the Tata's !"

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