Indrajit Gupta, founding editor of Forbes India, has alleged that Charudutta Deshpande was confined in Jamshedpur for two weeks after a cover story, Remoulding Tata Steel, was published in the magazine’s April 13, 2013, issue.
Gupta, among the journalists who wrote a letter to Tata group chairman, Cyrus Mistry, and chairman emeritus, Ratan Tata, demanding an inquiry into Deshpande’s death, said he suspected Deshpande got out of Jamshedpur by offering to resign.
Gupta said Deshpande faced opposition on several fronts at Tata Steel, where he was head of corporate communications, as he stumbled upon certain malpractices at the Jamshedpur unit, and because he wanted to expand the corporate affairs department.
“I was in touch with him when he was confined in Jamshedpur and spoke to him on four to five occasions. He was subjected to a lot of pressure. He was not allowed to travel outside the city without permission, not allowed to function. He used to speak to me over the landline as he suspected his phones were being tapped,” Gupta said.
“After the story appeared, officials at Tata thought he was responsible for its content though it was an independent piece of journalism, as he had promised them a story on Tata’s revival,” said Gupta.
Gupta said officials then started questioning everything connected to Deshpande and alleged that unsolicited trips had been made to the company’s Kalinganagar mines under Deshpande’s purview.
Gupta said he had urged Deshpande to escalate the matter to Bombay House, but Deshpande had said it would make matters worse.
“While this was going on, Charu came across malpractices at the Jamshedpur unit so I suspect he drew more flak,” he said.
Gupta added that Deshpande’s plan to take the company’s corporate affairs and communication department beyond Jamshedpur saw resistance. “Charu had said he faced strong resistance from people in his own department. They did not want the unit to go out of Jamshedpur. It was a very hostile, toxic environment for him.”