Friday, October 17, 2008

The Emperor Has No Clothes!

By Roger Alexander

Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal protests too much. The decision to lay off workers was taken by the management and I was not fully in the loop,” he claims. Who’s he trying to kid? If he’s not the management, then he’s certainly the mismanagement that sought to correct a tailspin by throwing out young recruit in mid-flight, as RK Laxman noted in today’s Times of India.

But then he gave the game away in the very next sentence. “My directions to the management was to run the company profitably…They took the decision on that basis.” Of course, managements follow the bossman’s orders.

But guess who the bossman is? It is Vijay Mallya, of course. Mallya had declared a day earlier that the new Jet-Kingfisher alliance needed to “cut the flab and be more lean and efficient.” He was not worried about his own girth, of course.

It was sickening to see the two mercenaries hug, kiss and do a jig after having 2000 staffers for breakfast. The two bloated beasts were so stuffed that they could not walk and took a golf cart to have a dekko at the flying machines around the Begumpet airport looking important and wondering whether to buy an Airbus or go in for Boeing.

By sacking 2000 young people, the Goyal-Mallya jodi was hoping to “save” Rs 60 crore annually. But do you know their saving so far: Jet has “saved” Rs 1143.31 crore and Kingfisher Rs 881.02 crore (total Rs 2024.33 cr) in the past few months. And guess, how did they manage this feat? By the simple expedient of refusing to pay their outstanding dues to the Oil companies, of course!

In fact these two fatsos were hoping they would use pal Praful Patel’s clout to have this debt written off. To demonstrate they were in such dire states, they made out the case that if they did not have staff for breakfast, they’d be unable to afford caviar and champagne for lunch and dinner!

Then came the calculated roll of the dice. “Honourable Prime Minister and Finance Minister, could we have a Rs 5000 crore bailout to save the aviation sector, especially since we control 60 per cent of the market? We must keep flying high so that the country’s “growth story” is not affected.” These fat cats are shameless.

To be sure, Mallya was confident that given the gung-ho attitude of the corporate media that has crowned him the ‘King of Good Times’ (sic) would give him easy passage, indeed even salute him for following “prudent business practices”  and “safeguarding shareholder value.”

Well, the diabolical plan did not run according to the carefully-crafted script. The sight of young girls from as far as Manipur and Mizoram , crying their hearts out - mascara and foundation streaming down rosy cheeks - before TV cameras had an electrifying impact across the country. Hey, these kids are “one of us.” Hey, they’ve taken loans to enrol in grooming institutes (that con is another story). Hey, these kids didn’t deserve to be shafted.

These pictures reached everyone from Sonia Gandhi to Sitaram Yechury. Everyone knew what they meant: In an election year you can probably give a spin to farmers’ suicides, but can you have the blood of young cabin crew on your hands on 24x7 satellite TV?

The charlatans in the government were first off the blocks. The government, which is keen to introduce “labour reforms” (basically a hire-and-fire policy as opposed to the current protection-of-workers-rights regime), sought to obfuscate the issue.

“Hiring is reckless and firing is breathless,” thundered Veerappa Moily. Before reporters could digest what that meant, Moily opened another front. “They thought they are emperors…This is India and not America.”

The upshot of the story so far? One more freeloader, no make that freebooter, bites the dust! The King of Good Times will have to settle for a Bermicide’s Feast, after all.


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