On 1 November 2010, Alok Chauhan, a corporate affairs executive at Essar Services India Limited (ESIL) sent an email to Sunil Bajaj, director and head of the corporate relations group at ESIL. Attached to this email was a list, in possession of The Caravan, that contained the names of 222 people, including some of India’s top politicians, bureaucrats and journalists. The list indicates that those mentioned on it had been sent iPads ahead of Diwali—which fell on 5 November that year—by Essar.
This document is the latest in a long string of revelations often termed as 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 government and the media. Bhushan’s team went through hundreds of pages of the whistle-blower’s trove, and found proof that the company provided favours to numerous journalists and political leaders such as Pranab Mukherjee and Nitin Gadkari.
A common sight today, the iPad—a line of tablet computers designed and marketed by Apple—had been launched in worldwide in April 2010, but was available in India only in the grey market, at prices that started from Rs 30, 000. The device was launched in India in January 2011, three months after this list was circulated. The tabulated list also stated the contact information of each person on the list, with a category for the number of iPads that were “issued”, the number that were “delivered” and those that were “returned.” Of the 195 people who received iPads according to the list, only 21 seemed to have returned it at the time that the list was tabulated on 1 November 2010. Over the next three days, The Caravan will be releasing the names of those people who have been mentioned in the list. This piece, the first in the series, contains the names of the journalists mentioned in the list along with their responses.