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Another open letter

In the spirit of open letter season, I'll be honest and let both of you know that I didn't understand much of what either of you said in your open letters to each other. I called up a few people to explain to me what you've written. But because they can't ever be neutral on the matter, all they kept talking about was how all journalists - film reviewers and caption-writers included - were vassals of corporate houses. Indrajit Hazra writes an open letter to Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Ratan Tata.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2010 21:57 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Dear Rajeev and Ratan,

In the spirit of open letter season, I'll be honest and let both of you know that I didn't understand much of what either of you said in your open letters to each other. I called up a few people to explain to me what you've written. But because they can't ever be neutral on the matter, all they kept talking about was how all journalists - film reviewers and caption-writers included - were vassals of corporate houses. The only big shot telecomwalla I've met is Sunil Mittal who treated me to coffee, so my heart will always be with him. But since he's really not involved in this spat of yours, I am gloriously unbiased.

Rajeev, I know you less well than Ratan, so to you first. You fired your missive to RT not because you wanted to stand up and be counted at a time when you were itching to say something in Parliament only to find the fish market shut for all practical purposes, but because, like me, you find RT ickily clean.

I mean, how many times are you going to smile through his squeaky clean image and that whole spiel about him being asked for a Rs 15 crore bribe some 15 years ago? I was asked for a Rs 500 bribe some 500 days ago which I never ever paid. Did I bring it up, except in small parties among strangers?

I've gnashed my teeth too about some folks going on and on about how, unlike anyone from the mainstream media (those two words followed by a spittle-hurl from the mob these days), they have never had a "captive connection" (Ratan's words) with the powers that be and are, therefore, forced to hire a PR person to clear any misinformation about them. Some of my best friends are PR persons. But like there is good PR and bad PR, there is a difference between the lady who keeps calling me up to plug her client's articles ('What ails India?' and 'Whither India?' being the last two ones I rejected) and a bag lady who wants to twist the doorframes to get an elephant into your living room.

But enough of bad, convoluted metaphors. The Tatas, you wrote in your letter to Ratan, submitted their dual technology applications about three weeks after 575 2G applications had already been received. The Tatas today have "GSM spectrum allocated and GSM service launched in most of the circles" (your words). This, while 343 applicants who submitted three weeks before the Tata Group are still waiting in a line outside the building. Ergo, Squeaky Clean jumped the line and subsequently sold the Tata Group's equity for some healthy shekels.

I was with you so far. But then, you told Ratan in your letter about the flip-flop in the government's telecom policy during the first half of this decade by which the Tatas 'benefited'. Frankly, flip-flops happen in every nascent industry that's trying to find its way in the dark. So your grumblings are over the fact that the Tatas benefited when the CDMA vs GSM battle suddenly gave way to the creation of the UASL (unified access service licence) and not so much about the flip-flops themselves.

Now to Ratan. Can I call you Ratan, since you seem to be fond of jazz, the Chet Baker kind of quiet, doleful trumpet-play? Not knowing much about the telecom industry, I must say that I find your defence quite compelling. To blame you for benefitting (read: 'jumping the line') from the change from a single technology-friendly (GSM) policy to a dual technology-friendly (GSM and CDMA) one is like blaming girls for a boys' school turning co-ed.

As for how this 'flip-flop' happened, you've told everyone that no hanky panky took place. Who am I going to believe? You, who's my kind of highbrow guy who likes dogs and metals that move? Or your PR lady Niira Radia, who employed former Trai chairman Pradeep Baijal in one of her firms and spoke too much (ironically) over the phone instead of passing notes on napkins across bar tables? I bet a full-speed yellow Nano that like the PM not knowing what that A Raja fellow was up to as long as tele-density figures were looking good, you were also unaware of how (at least some) good fortune was finally coming your way.

But Ratan, did you have to respond to Rajeev's 'Dear Uncle Ratan, I love you but...' letter with: "...to embarrass the prime minister and the ruling party may well have been the motivation behind your letter"? By doing so, you've brought up a matter that is unthinkable: a nexus between corporate houses and politicians. But then, what do I know about this epic epistolary dung-slinging between you two phoners?

Love, your phoney friend,

Indrajit