Posts Tagged 'taj'

The Tata way

October 10 2009

Meeting with H N Srinivas – Senior Executive Vice President, Taj Group of

Last evening, I had a dinner meeting with HNS in Goa (I was there for a
National Institute of Personnel Management conference – as a speaker).
He narrated the 26th November 2008 terror attack on Taj Mumbai and there
were some important points.

*A. Terrorist Entry*

*1. They entered from the Leopold Colaba hotel entrance and also from the
northern entrance – spraying indiscriminate bullets on the Taj security
personnel and guests in general.
2. Though Taj had a reasonable security – they were surely not equipped to
deal with terrorists who were spraying 6 bullets per trigger.
3. The strategy of the terrorists was to throw chunks of RDX in an open
area that will explode and burn – creating chaos so that the guests and
staff run helter skelter so that the terrorists could kill them. The idea
was to create maximum casualties.
4. There were several critical gatherings and functions happening in the
hotel on that day – a Bohra wedding, global meet of Unilever CEOs and Board
members and 2 other corporate meetings were being held in the hotel –
besides the usual crowd.
5. The firing and chaos began at about 8.30 p.m. and the staff including
employees on casual and contract basis displayed exemplary presence of mind,
courage and sacrifice to protect the guests who were in various halls and
conference rooms.

*B. Stories of Staff Heroics*

*1. A young lady guest relation executive with the HLL gathering stopped
any of the members going out and volunteered 3 times to go out and get stuff
such as ice cubes for whiskey of the guests when the situation outside the
hall was very explosives and she could have been easily the target of the
2. Thomas George a captain escorted 54 guests from a backdoor staircase
and when he was going down last he was shot by the terrorists
3. There were 500 emails from various guests narrating heroics of the
staff and thanking them for saving their lives
4. In a subsequent function, Ratan Tata broke down in full public view and
sobbed saying – “the company belongs to these people”. The wife of Thomas
George who laid his life saving others said, she and the kids were proud of
the man and that she did not know that for 25 years she lived with a man who
was so courageous and brave
5. The episode happened on 26th November, a significant part of the hotel
was burnt down and destroyed – the hotel was re-opened on 21st December and
all the employees of the hotel were paraded in front of the guests
6. It was clearly a saga of extra-ordinary heroics by ordinary people for
their organisation and in a way for their country. The sense of duty and
service was unprecedented
7. The young lady who protected and looked after the HLL guests was a
management trainee and we often speak of juniority and seniority in the
organisation. She had no instructions from any supervisor to do what she did
a. She took just 3 minutes to rescue the entire team through the kitchen
b. Cars were organised outside the hotel as per seniority of the members
c. In the peak of the crisis, she stepped out and got the right wine glass
for the guest
8. People who exhibited courage included janitors, waiters, directors,
artisans and captains – all level of people

*C. The Tata Gesture*

*1. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day
as casuals were treated on duty during the time the hotel was closed
2. Relief and assistance to all those who were injured and killed
3. The relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the
railway station, surroundings including the “Pav-Bhaji” vendor and the pan
shop owners
4. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent my money
5. A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute
of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help
6. The thoughts and anxieties going on people’s mind was constantly
tracked and where needed psychological help provided
7. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water,
sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were
covered by this facility
8. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s
responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the
person required
9. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who
in some manner – either through injury or getting killed – were affected.
10. The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to
Mumbai and taken care off in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace.
They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks
11. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents – as to what they
wanted him to do.
12. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tatas for
the purpose of relief of employees.
13. What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees,
the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tatas were
covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance
of Rs. 10K per month for all these people for 6 months.
14. A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only
one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital
and several lacs were spent by the Tatas on her to fully recover her
15. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts
16. Tata will take responsibility of life education of 46 children of the
victims of the terror
17. This was the most trying period in the life of the organisation. Senior
managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3
days that were most horrible
18. The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs
in addition to the following benefits:
a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents
b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents –
anywhere in the world
c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of
their life
d. All loans and advances were waived off – irrespective of the amount
e. Counselor for life for each person

*D. Epilogue
1. How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they
behave the way they did?
2. The organisation is clear that it is not something that someone can
take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such
behaviour. If someone suggests that – everyone laughs
3. It has to do with the DNA of the organisation, with the way Tata culture
exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The
organisation has always been telling that customers and guests are #1
4. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in
one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.
5. He created several institutions which later became icons of progress,
culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers
that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the
same. He could afford fencing only 400 acres.
6. When the HR function hesitatingly made a very rich proposal to Ratan –
he said – do you think we are doing enough?
7. The whole approach was that the organisation would spend several hundred
crore in re-building the property – why not spend equally on the employees
who gave their life?

*Minuted by Dileep Ranjekar

Hang your heads in shame, my countrymen: Arvind Lavakare

Nov 30, 2008
Hang your heads in shame, my countrymen: Arvind Lavakare

It was a national humiliation

Hang your heads in shame, my countrymen. Do it because a dozen-odd terrorists traveled 500 nautical miles of the Arabian sea from Karachi to Mumbai’s Gateway of India, just opposite the grandiose Taj Mahal Hotel and proceeded to humble the city of 16.4 million into utter helpless ness for over 48 hours even as over 125 civilians and some distinguished professional security men lost their lives to the hand grenades and rifle bullets of a fanatical mindset. It was a humiliation worse than the drubbing the Chinese army gave us in 1961.

It was because our motherland, India, is a soft nation, tested and proven so several times. Despite the weighty evidence of Clement Atlee, the Britain’s post World War II prime minister to the contrary, the Congress party brainwashed the entire nation, including the press, that it was the non-violence strategy of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that brought us independence……

Imagine the People’s Democratic Party of Jammu & Kashmir granting pensions from government to families of slain terrorists. Imagine, the Prime Minister himself disclosing his sleepless night over the plight of the mother of an Indian Muslim held in police custody in Australia on suspicion of being involved in a bomb blast but not over the plight of mothers of thousands of his innocent countrymen killed in terrorist violence.

Imagine two Cabinet Ministers oppose the ban on SIMI despite the latter’s proven guilt. Imagine one Cabinet Minister wanting all illegal migrants from Bangladesh to be given full citizenship rights, when it is well-known that many among them have links with terrorists. Imagine another Cabinet Minister approving of a University vice chancellor’s decision to deploy funds provided by a foreign government to be utilized for the legal defence of two of his University students accused of involvement in terrorist violence.

Imagine, lastly, that amounts running into thousands of crores have been spent on the Haj subsidy for Muslims but the security of our very long coastline on the west is so ill-funded that terrorists can come from Karachi across the Arabian Sea to Mumbai without being spotted.

Contrast all of this is typically indolent-cum-idealistic-cum-selfish Indian attitude to the stark realism and patriotism of the USA when 9/11 occurred in 2001. One thing that nation did shortly after that dastardly day was the enactment by the USA Congress of what’s come to be known as the USA Patriot Act. That nomenclature is really an acronym, and the full name of that legislation is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001”. If a name can arouse emotions, that one certainly does. And however draconian that law has been, it has prevented the recurrence of 9/11.

Unless the whole young nation of ours forgets non-violence as a magic mantra and unless our politicians show a commitment similar to that of the USA to engage in a literal war against terror, we shall continue to allow just about a dozen-odd terrorists to humiliate an entire nation for over 48 hours, even as a naïve Prime Minister calls the Pakistan chief of intelligence to share info with us.

— Arvind Lavakare
(Arvind Lavakare may be 71, but the fire in his belly burns stronger than in many people half his age. The economics post-graduate worked with the Reserve Bank of India and several private and public sector companies before retiring in 1997. His first love, however, remains sports. An accredited cricket umpire in Mumbai, he has reported and commented on cricket matches for newspapers, Doordarshan and AIR. Lavakare has also been regularly writing on politics since 1997, and published a monograph, The Truth About Article 370, in 2005).

Is Mumbai really anything new? By Dr. Richard Benkin
Is Mumbai really anything new?  
29 Nov 2008 
By Dr. Richard Benkin
Albert Einstein once said “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”  What happened in Mumbai in the closing days of November 2008 was evil.  The terrorists who planned and financed it were evil.  The terrorists who carried it out were evil.  And the terrorists who provided tactical and other support were evil.  That should surprise no one.  People long have known the depths of depravity to which radical Islam is capable of sinking.  Have they not given us ample evidence?
Just since the September 11, 2001 bombings that killed over 3000 Americans, radical Islamists have carried out over 11,000 terror attacks worldwide.  While they were not the first to use suicide bombers or hijack airplanes, Islamists carried both to new heights as their principle weapons of terror.  They have blown up schools and students, driven busses into crowds of people, set off terror bombs on public transportation and elsewhere in dozens of countries throughout Asia and Europe.  Their leaders openly call for genocide against Jews and Hindus, and their followers are trying to carry out those calls.  Wherever they have had the power to do so, they deliberately destroy religious shrines and houses of worship and brag about it as step in destroying other faiths or variants of Islam.  And then they have the gall to claim that these things were done because they were angry at some perceived offense, frustrated at their current living conditions, or defending their own warped conception of human rights.  So, while terrible, are the events that unfolded in ten locations across Mumbai anything new or surprising?  Did the terrorists do anything they have not promised us they would do?
The tragedy is that these events could have been prevented.  Radical Islam has been warning the rest of us that it means to re-make our planet in its own image and kill anybody that threatens to stand in its way.  Its practitioners have vowed repeatedly to destroy India as an abomination against Islam; yet its leaders act as if they were only kidding.  Despite the country experiencing almost non-stop Islamist attacks, the ruling Congress Party maintains a strict policy of non-confrontation with home-grown Muslims who support the radical organizations.  It recently showed far more zeal in prosecuting an alleged “Hindu terrorist” after a bomb went off in a predominantly Muslim town.  The accused Hindu priest was interrogated several times, despite the fact that her only tie to the bombing was a car used in the attack, which 38 year-old Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur had sold years before.  In a policy of appeasement similar to Britain’s (which was also a target in the Mumbai attacks), that same government deliberately refrains from identifying terrorists as Muslim. 
Indian Hindus often complain that the government is not carrying out its mandate of secularism but practices a “pseudo-secularism” that bends over backwards to favor minorities even if it means heaping disabilities on Hinduism or Hindus.  Its recently-passed budget contained millions in subsidies for Muslims to go on the Hajj to Mecca and pilgrimages to Jerusalem; but not a penny for the numerous but uncounted Hindu refugees from Islamist ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh.  Other groups are agitating because the government took possession of Hindu temples but refuses to maintain them.
Before Mumbai, there had been 1,111 Indian fatalities (mostly defenseless civilians) from terrorist attacks in 2008 alone.  Most attackers were Islamist, but 369 Indians were killed by leftists.  When I was in India earlier this year, there was a terrorist attack or counter terrorist operation every day.  But while security forces will go after individual terrorists, the government has made no strong moves to stop terrorism at its root—either by breaking up home-grown supporters or taking any one of numerous actions at its disposal against foreign nations involved in the death of Indian citizens. Neither has India done anything to end its open border policy, especially in the North and Northeast where I observed contraband in the form of arms and drugs being carted into India under the noses of the Indian Border Security Force and other militia.  Terrorists also enter India freely from Bangladesh, Nepal, and China.
Indian intelligence sources now have confirmed that the Mumbai terrorists received training and support from Pakistan.  All information points to at least two Islamist organizations, including Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kashmir.  One of the captured terrorists, Abu Islam, however, reported “that they reached India via sea route and they were trained by the Pakistani army as well as [the] Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI.”  Abu Islam lives in Pakistan, and several reports identify a number of terrorists as “British subjects of Pakistani origin.”  These revelations already have caused an international stir.  The British government asked the Indians “not to jump to conclusions” without a full investigation.  More ominously, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi cut short his visit to India after the allegations surfaced; although he later said that Pakistan would “extend full cooperation and at all levels,” while denying a Pakistani connection to the attacks.  Reneging on that pledge, however, the Pakistanis refused to send the head of the ISI as requested but only “a representative.”
The way India responds to these nascent geo-political events will indicate how extensive its anti-terror resolve might remain.  Pressure against that resolve will come from Europe, Iran, the Arab world, and almost every member of the international NGO club; all of whom will counsel “cool heads” and argue against taking action to preserve Indian lives.  These are the same parties that continue to push a faux human rights agenda Israel, thereby aping the Islamists they are in effect supporting.  For instance, when Palestinian terrorists were blowing up innocent Israelis on public busses, they were unyielding in telling Israel to make concessions to the terrorists because the latter felt “humiliated” by the checkpoints they had to pass on their way to wreak havoc on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.  The United States similarly lost a lot of the resolve it had after the September 11th attacks.  It did destroy Afghanistan’s oppressive and racist Taliban government.  And by the way, which nation’s capital is only 100 kilometers from the radical seminary that trained the Taliban?  Saudi Arabia?  Iran?  Pakistan?  The answer, unfortunately, is India where the Darool Uloom Seminary just north of New Delhi.
US anti-terrorist actions have prevented any attacks on its soil since September 11th,  and they are wrapping up their successful mission in Iraq.  But the unity of resolve that characterized the United States in the days following 9/11 is a distant memory.  The US President who launched the war on Islamist extremism, George W. Bush, will be leaving office in a matter of weeks; and his administration has been engaged in trying to pressure Israel into rewarding the Islamists.  Moreover, Americans have just elected a President, Barack Obama, whose policy is to negotiate with those nation-states that sponsor Islamist terror.
It is up to Indians and Indian leaders to learn from these mistakes and recognize the danger they face on a daily basis from Islamist radicals.  Whether in a new “coalition of the willing” (to borrow a phrase from Bush), the sort of changes in its border and security policies that the United States started to make after 9/11, or a sustained military and intelligence effort to destroy any of the millions of Indian Muslims who are part of or support Islamist extremists; the resources exist for India to energize the lagging international fight against the international scourge of Islamist terrorism.
[Dr. Benkin is a noted expert on South Asia and is available for speeches, commentary, or consultation through this paper.]