Yesterday, The Caravanreleased the names of the journalists who had been sent iPads by the Essar group—an Indian conglomerate that has investments in sectors such as steel, infrastructure and energy— in 2010. These journalists were part of a much larger list, which also included politicians and bureaucrats, and had been circulated within Essar that year. A part of this list is being released today and consists of the politicians who were named in the Essar document and have been contacted by The Caravan for their response. These names are reflected in the original document that has been uploaded as a part of this story. However, we have taken care to blur the names of all those who are still being contacted. Personal details such as addresses, phone numbers and emails addresses have also been blurred.
As we have already stated, this document is the latest in a long string of revelations often termed the Essar Leaks. At the end of last year, a person with access to Essar’s internal communications approached the Delhi-based lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan. This whistle-blower was privy to details of the company’s attempts at managing the Indian government and media.
The names in this list, as well as the procedure used to contact and deliver a Diwali gift to these individuals, reveals the thought and effort that Essar had invested in cultivating influence amongst those in positions of power. The politicians on the list range across the political spectrum, from Ahmed Patel in the Congress to Arun Jaitley in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Most important political formations in the country are represented by the names on the list—Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), SC Mishra of the BJP, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India—Marxist [CPI(M)] and Mukul Roy of the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC).
A former employee from Essar who is familiar with the organisation’s processes told The Caravan that a relationship manager listed under the column “Rel_Mgr” in the document had been assigned the responsibility for delivering the gifts to select subsets on the list. In most cases these iPads were hand-delivered and any that were returned at the spot were marked on the document. Out of a total of 195 iPads that were issued, only 21 were marked returned. Of the politicians on the list being released today, only Jitendra Singh was marked as having returned the iPad.
According to the former official, very few iPads were subsequently returned. However, this is not borne out by the versions given to us by the staff of the politicians we contacted.