By Abhishek Jha:
In a fresh development in a writ petition seeking a probe against Essar Group, the company told the Supreme Court last month that, “As far as job requests are concerned, in the Indian environment, considering the enormous demand for corporate jobs, people in office or in public life frequently make requests for getting jobs. There is nothing illegal or improper in such requests,” The Indian Express reported. Following the Group’s claim in its counter affidavit that the favours it provided were “common courtesies”, The Indian Express has published selected extracts from a 2010 presentation made by Sunil Bajaj, the Essar Group’s then Director, Corporate Relations. The report tries to establish that the company might have furnished false information before the Supreme Court.
Soon after The Indian Express published a series of stories based on emails leaked by a whistleblower from the company in February that came to be known as Essar leaks, a PIL was filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation seeking “a court-monitored investigation by an SIT or the CBI into the high level of political-bureaucratic-corporate nexus wherein corporates use their money power to change public policies, plant questions in Parliament, get access to internal government documents/cabinet papers, grant favours to politicians and bureaucrats for receiving benefits in return, and plant stories in news media.” While the Supreme Court told the petitioner on the 26th of November that they had “touched some raw nerves here”, Essar had defended itself by saying that the jobs it provided on the requests of politicians and bureaucrats were not made solely on the basis of the recommendations and that the PIL had not been able to establish any quid-pro-quo.
However, the Indian Express report shows otherwise. The source of the presentation is unclear from the report. Some details about the people present at the presentation and what transpired there has been attributed to anonymous sources. The very title of the presentation- ‘Navigating the corridors of Power: To positively influence the high and mighty’- refutes the company’s own claims. Promoters, directors, and project heads of the company were present during the presentation, the newspaper’s sources claim, and were told that “the entire corporate relations activity will be done quietly and calmly, as a support for our business.”
Some damning directions issued in the presentation and published by the Indian Express are:
“Develop a foothold in regions and develop a good network among the state politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary, vernacular media, NGOs, opinion makers etc so that when they move to the national scene, we have a hold on them.”
“Identify people who are likely to occupy positions of eminence in the country in the next ten years, and formulate a strategy to win over their goodwill and keep them on our side.”
The information published from another slide on the presentation also shows how most corporate groups function and the possible illegal activities that they conduct to stay competitive in the market. The substance of the slide is that large business groups set up a Corporate Relations Group (CRG) in posh residential areas in NCR to conduct confidential activities. In what could possibly be a legal violation, the CRG also tries to obtain both “relevant and irrelevant documents from all strategic offices in the government set up.”
Whether these revelations have any considerable impact will be an interesting observation for the common citizen of this country as the company seems to have hacked the entire bureaucratic and political system of this country, going right up to the President. As a Caravan cover story from August, “Doing The Needful“, had tried to establish, this is how corporate India seems to work. That story led to Essar Group filing a Rs. 250 crore defamation case against Caravan and demanding an injunction and ex-parte order to restrain the magazine from publishing the story. The case is ongoing in Ahmedabad and the Supreme Court has refused to transfer it to Delhi. What transpires ultimately in this case will either correct the course that corporate houses in India have taken or let them function without reprieve. The future of a lot of people in the country depends on it.
To know more details about the claims Caravan made, read: By Filing A Lawsuit Against Caravan Magazine, Has Essar Actually Defamed Itself?