Bye Bye TATA

With Tata cellular services winding up their business in Jammu and Kashmir following the cancellation of their license by the telecom regulatory body TRAI, hundreds of employees and thousands of customers have been left in a lurch, SAMEER YASIR reports.

When Tanvir Ahmed completed his MBA at Amity University in Noida, he wanted to join a good company, which would give him a good package so that he could take care of his aged parents. But a phone call from his father in Srinagar in late Oct 2010 changed his decision. His father told him that his mother was not well and that he should come home and search for a job here.

Although he had received job offer from a Delhi based company, he couldn’t join and left Delhi. On his arrival in Kashmir, he searched for jobs but couldn’t find one. Finally, after a lot of waiting, he got a job with Tata’s cellular service.

“I thought I was lucky. It was India’s biggest telecom company. The most important part was I was working close to my parents,” he says. Tanveer joined the Hyderpora office of Tata Docomo in late December 2010. “Although the package was not good but it was enough to suffice my needs. And the most important of all, I had to pay back an education loan which I wanted to pay desperately,” he adds.

Everything was going fine till the first week of November. In a videoconference meeting, when the employees were expecting Diwali bonus, they were told that Tata Docomo was winding up its operation in J&K. The employees were told they would get three months of salary after which their services shall be terminated by the company.

“They did not provide adequate answers to our queries. We were doing better business and sales were going up. When they said they would be winding up on January 17, 2013, all of us were shocked.” Tanveer says

Every morning, outside the TATA Docomo office in Hyderpora, more than 50 employees gather and discuss their future plan. Some have decided to leave Kashmir for Delhi to search for jobs while some are searching for jobs in valley.

“This is the curse of the private sector. This is why every one wants a government job in Kashmir. We can never trust these private companies who don’t even think about the future of the people associated with it,” says Shakeeb Ahmed, an employee of Tata.

The company presently has a staff of 120 in J&K who have to look for the other alternatives. The number of indirect employs is more than 1000. Then there are distributers, their employees and the list goes on.

The people associated with Tata say after the chairman of Tata Group, Ratan Tata, visited Kashmir, they were very hopeful that business would expand and the company would lead the course in private investment. On the other hand, the company says it was not their fault. The decision to cancel the licensees was taken by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Suroor Hussain, head of the Corporate Communication at the TATA Docomo services says the government of India cancelled the license of 122 companies, not just in J&K but in other states also.

“We don’t want to leave Kashmir but it the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India which cancelled our licenses.” The three regions where Tata‘s licenses have been cancelled include J&K, Assam and the seven states in North East.

But Suroor says the company is working for the modalities for these employees and if they wish, they can be accommodated in other places. But he refused to comment on what would happen to its clients in Kashmir.

Amir Nabi had purchased a Tata Photon in the last week of October for which he paid Rs 1500. With Tata planning to exit, he feels cheated because the company neither informed him about the decision nor told him that the money he has submitted would be refunded. Instead, he says, they are asking for the new fee.

“I asked the customer care whether they would refund half of the amount which I paid on the purchase of Photon but they said they don’t have any information neither they know whether they will return my money.”

Tata started operations in J&K in 2008 and it was among a leading connection provider with more than one lakh post and pre-paid mobile and internet subscribers who have no idea what they are going to do with the unannounced exit of Tata from the valley.

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