Keeping jobs aside for VIP families, taking care of the needs of bureaucrats and politicians on trips abroad, paying for treatment of VIPs and identifying rising stars who are likely to occupy “positions of eminence” in the country. These instructions form part of a 19-slide Essar Group presentation made on February 19, 2010, by its then director, corporate relations, Sunil Bajaj. Its opening line is: “The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.”
At the presentation, sources said, promoters, directors and project heads of the company were told that “the entire corporate relations activity will be done quietly and calmly, as a support for our businesses”.
Called ‘Navigating the corridors of Power: To positively influence the high and mighty’, the presentation flies in the face of what the company told the Supreme Court last month.
Responding to a public interest litigation seeking an investigation into its alleged nexus with politicians, bureaucrats and journalists to promote its business interests, the Essar Group, in a counter-affidavit, said it had done no wrong by giving gifts to people in public life or in the civil service since it had made no attempt to obtain undue favour.
It also told the Supreme Court that while “people in office or in public life frequently make requests for getting jobs”, it made no appointments “only based on the recommendations”.
However, consider these excerpts from slides of the 2010 presentation, titled ‘Strategic Highlights — Future Plan: Relationship Management with Target Segments’:
* Provide employment to at least 50-100 persons from families of top VIPs in the country.
* Offer hospitality & assistance to bureaucrats and top politicians during their trip abroad, and take care of their requirements while abroad.
* Identify those VIPs who are in need of urgent medical help for self or immediate family members for treatment of serious illness and who may not be in a position to afford it, and take care of this need, thereby opening a channel for long term relationship with the person concerned.
* 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.
* Identify at least 50 top rung persons from political, bureaucratic, media, judiciary, art & culture fields and nurture a one-to-one relationship with them who will be our ambassadors across the country and who will help us in case of any need.
* Maintain very close relation with those ministries handling our core businesses — right from the cabinet minister and his personal staff down to the under secretary.
* 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.
* Utilise the services of some influential and retired bureaucrats/influential person by way of advisors.
* Leverage Essar Foundation as a front face. Conduct at least 2-3 events inviting national/ international attention under the umbrella of Essar Foundation.
* Organise parties/functions for birthday, anniversaries and other important occasions in their family.
An email was sent to Essar asking for their comments on this presentation. An Essar spokesperson said no presentation was made on February 19, 2010 and denied that there was any policy to favour VIPs. In another slide called ‘Competitor Strategy’, the presentation highlights:
* All the large business groups have massive CRG (Corporate Relations Group) set-ups spread across NCR. Some of their offices function from residential areas in posh localities in the name of unknown group offices where all confidential activities are conducted.
* All of them have arrangements to pick up all relevant and irrelevant papers and documents from all strategic offices in the government set up. The gathered documents are studied and analysed thoroughly and used as a defensive mechanism for their group, and as an offensive against competitors and rival groups.
* Organise proper positioning of the bureaucrats of their choice for their benefit. They do this exercise for politicians as well.
* They sponsor higher education, foreign junkets, hospitality etc to those in power depending upon their present as well as future utility.
* Many of these corporates have taken on their payrolls recommendees of the higher ups i.e. Ministers and top bureaucrats, who are sometimes close relatives of these people. This is a well thought out strategy by which they are able to have a hold on the concerned person in position when a need arises.
Under the head “Achievements – CRG,” the Essar presentation lists among others:
* Obtained several FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approvals in spite of resistance from Revenue dept.
* CBSE approval for Nand Vidya Niketan at Vadinar, Gujarat, in spite of three rejections and no infrastructure facility available at Vadinar.
In 2010 presentation, policy was laid down. Excerpts from the Essar Group slides shown to promoters, directors:
* Provide employment to at least 50-100 persons from families of top VIPs
* Offer hospitality & assistance to bureaucrats and top politicians during their trip abroad
* Identify those VIPs who are in need of urgent medical help for self or immediate family
* Identify people who are likely to occupy positions of eminence in the country in the next ten years
* Identify at least 50 top rung persons from political, bureaucratic, media, judiciary, art & culture fields
* Obtained several FIPB approvals in spite of resistance from Revenue dept.
* (Competitors) organise proper positioning of the bureaucrats of their choice for their benefit
In response to an email from The Indian Express, an Essar spokesperson said:
“At the very outset, we would like to inform you that The Indian Express has published several articles of similar nature in the past setting out our stand therein.
No presentation was made as set out by you on February 19th 2010. There is also no Policy in Essar to provide employment and other benefits to VIPs and/or any of their family members. Appointments are not made only based on the references made. The persons chosen for appointment possess the prescribed qualifications and are otherwise eligible for appointment. These aspects are assessed as per HR Policy in an open and transparent manner.
Essar has already filed its reply to the above effect in the PIL pending in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in which a similar issue has been raised. Since the issue raised by you is directly and substantially in issue in the said PIL, it would not be proper for us to say anything further than what is stated by us herein above, which you may please note.”