During a TV interview on July 9th, 2012 Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata had regretted for his failure in creating a truly open, flat, transparent organisation. It was evident that he was deeply pained because of Tata group getting dragged into the 2G spectrum allocation controversy (after the tapes of corporate lobbyist Nira Radia were leaked to the media). Tata, who was set to step down his chair in December 2012, had also hoped that he would be able to pass on the legacy to successfully move ahead without compromising value system and ethics.
However come the end of 2012 and Ratan Tata is found once again to have given either a blind eye to what his organisation is doing or seems to have become indifferent himself.
The three CDMA licenses of Tata Teleservices (among the 122 licenses) cancelled by the Supreme Court in February 2012,- something which had pained Ratan Tata so much, were the telecom circles of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam respectively. Since Tata Teleservices does not have any more spectrum to operate in these areas, the only way Tata could have lived to their words of ethics and values was to buy, or at least bid for buying spectrum in these areas. But Tata chose not to.
Last month, when the opportunity came to show the ethics and prove the world, the Tata simply decided to ignore their 3,20,000 plus customers (figures from media sources) in these three circles. The government had fixed a reserve price of Rs 4,550 crore for each block in 800 MHz band, which is used for offering CDMA services. Tata simply withdrew from the bid stating that it was too high a price.
The company further sent out a notification to customers of Assam on December 14th as Tata Teleservices Limited in pursuance of the Supreme Court Order dated 02.02.2012 will be closing down its operations in Assam Telecom Circle w.e.f. 18.01.2013.
These customers, who have bought their CDMA device (Photon Whiz, Photon+ etc) at different costs (starting from Rs 4499 to Rs. 1199), would have to now only throw away their devices into the Brahmaputra or down the hillside. One does not need to be a big genius to do the maths, – the amount of money that went down the drain (or down Tata pockets as some would argue) for more than 3 lakhs people.
There are several questions that are back again.
First one the Tata. They lamented for getting involved in the 2G scam and talked about ethics. But when time came to buy the same licenses again for the right price (and not the scandalous low price), they withdrew at the cost of 3 lakh people whose only fault was that they had trusted the Tata. For all those who bought a Tata Photon device, lets’ say last February with a warranty of one year, from Jan 18 he would have a device that exists but does not serves. This is cheating to the customer and unless the people are compensated or made alternate arrangements, people have all the right to file criminal charges of being cheated off.
Second one for the Government. So, if the price is too high or there is going to be such a huge effect (3, 20,000 customers is no joke), what is the Government going to do for these people? Since this is Kashmir, Assam or Northeast that we are talking about, is it so easy to shut shop and flee with people’s money? Would it have been so easy in other places such as in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, etc?
Unfortunately for Kashmiris or us North Easterners, we could be shot at any time using availability of AFSPA (license to kill) as an excuse or robbed off our money anytime, using unavailability of license as an excuse.