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Employee care to community development

Many in India Inc emulating Tata example of Pandemic care

By VIJAY SHEKHAR

"Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches."

Thus wrote Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata in a letter to his son Dorabji Tata about his vision for the township that would eventually become Jamshedpur.

If I were to define Jamsetji to the present generation in one sentence, it would be – He was India’s first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Smart City and Start-Up champion. He had actually done all of this much before these terms gained cognisance.

I have always considered myself fortunate for being born and brought up in the beautiful ecosystem called Jamshedpur, that was envisaged by Jamsetji. And to me March 3, which is celebrated every year as Founder’s Day (Jamsetji was born on March 3, 1839), is as sacred as August 15 and January 26.

Jamshedpur was earlier part of Bihar…it became part of Jharkhand since November 2000 when the state was carved out of the southern part of Bihar. Even today if you ask someone who is not a native of Bihar or Jharkhand if they would like to work and live in one of these two states, the answer would generally be a NO. But if you ask them if they would want to work and live in Jamshedpur, there will be a lot of interest shown. The reason for this kind of feedback / response is very simple…the steel city is perceived to be like a cool and comforting oasis in the midst of a hot desert.

My own family is testimony to this. We basically belong to Kerala. Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers moved to Jamshedpur in the mid-1930s and later got their respective families too. My maternal grandfather was employed with TELCO (now Tata Motors) and my paternal grandfather with TISCO (now Tata Steel). By virtue of this, my parents’ wedding was quite a ‘joint venture’ between TELCO and TISCO. The charm of the steel city was such that my grandparents (both sides) chose not to go back to Kerala (except for yearly trips to visit relatives) even after retirement…and they lived in Jamshedpur till they lived. And just like many from his generation, my father too remained a ‘one company’ employee throughout his work life. After a 34-years long stint with TISCO / Tata Steel, he retired in 2006. My parents continue to live in Jamshedpur. As far as I am concerned, in any form where I am supposed to fill in my ‘Native Place’, without an iota of doubt I fill in JAMSHEDPUR…and I just feel proud whenever I do so.

Tata Steel’s community and employee centric initiatives need no introduction. These initiatives have been speaking for themselves over the decades. So, when the company announced pandemic support initiatives for its employees in May 2021, wherein among other things was the company’s commitment to pay the last drawn salary (alongwith housing and medical benefits) of a deceased employee (on account of COVID-19) to her / his family till she / he would have retired at the age of 60, it didn’t really surprise me. Simply because I was aware of the culture and found the initiatives to be nothing more than an extension of that culture.

Over the years, right from my childhood days, that city, that company and that whole ecosystem have created a ‘positive image’ in my mind…and they did this while also making steel. Pandemic or no pandemic, consciously or subconsciously, that image will live me till the time I live.

Today I feel extremely happy to see several India Inc citizens taking a cue from an unwritten ‘Tata Charter’ on employee and community development initiatives. (The author is Vice President & Branch Head – Chennai, Concept Public Relations India Limited. The views expressed by him are purely his own, and not of the organisation or the industry that he works for.)

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