Mir Zafar Awards: the Tradition, the Citations

Two hundred and fifty years ago, at the Battle of Plassey, General Mir Zafar betrayed his troops and his ruler Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah and cut a deal with the British East India Company, thus ushering in the “Kampani Raj” and ensuring the subjugation of the Indian population to foreign rulers for two hundred years.

Clive and Mir Zafar meet after the battle of Plassey. Click image for full size version.

In respectful memory of Mir Zafar, and to celebrate this country’s rich tradition of treachery, the Dalal Foundation has instituted these prestigious Awards in his name. They honour those in government and industry who have ushered in a new “Kampani Raj”, and by their relentless kowtowing to US multinationals,and their utter disregard for the lives, health and well-being of their own poorest citizens, have ensured that Indian sovereignty, justice and self-respect are once again trampled underfoot by foreign rulers.

Jai Mir Zafar. Jai Kampani. Jai Hind.


1. Ashok Punjwani
The jury is pleased to hand over The Mir Zafar “Best Environmental Talk the Talk Award” to Mr Ashok Punjwani, Director of Bharuch Enviro Infrastructure Limited, Gujarat . He hopes to incinerate Bhopal wastes at his facility in Ankleshwar some day. He has deftly deflected technical concerns about his waste facility by reputed technical experts by referring to them as “more emotional than technical.” If this isn’t a pioneering use of creative PR, the jury ruled that it doesn’t know what is.

Not to mention the fact that given the unpopularity of toxic waste facilities, Mr. Punjwani has demonstrated tremendous courage in running the Ankleshwar, particularly one that is far more economical and lower cost than a German facility designed to do the same job. It is his courage and his facility that helps other businesses, including companies like Union Carbide sleep easy.

On behalf of Dow Chemical, our corporate partner for the year, and others similarly placed, the Jury hopes this Award will go a long way in keeping Mr. Punjwani undeterred even in the face of the impending resistance from Bhopalis and Gujaratis alike.

2. Mukesh Ambani

The winner of The Mir Zafar “Birds of a Feather Award 2007” goes to Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, who recently announced plans to acquire Union Carbide technology for his new plastic factories in Gujarat . He has extended his hand in partnership to Union Carbide despite the reluctance of others to do so for the mere reason that Carbide is an absconder from an Indian court.

His seemingly reckless risk-taking, be it in acquiring potentially confiscable technology from Carbide, or in the creative use of force, connections and tax concessions in acquiring prime agricultural land as SEZs, is actually couched in the sound knowledge that his friends in high-places will scratch his back as he does theirs.

For going the extra mile in helping a brother corporation, the Jury wishes to demonstrate its appreciation and gratitude to Mr. Ambani by granting this award.

3. B.K. Chaturvedi

The jury was unanimous in its choice of Mr B. K. Chaturvedi as The Mir Zafar “Bureaucrat for Business Award 2007”. Mr B.K. Chaturvedi’s endeavours in linking petro-chemical, nuclear and chemical industries in the common cause of profitable growth for their investors met their sternest test when our corporate partner Dow Chemical refused to invest in India until officials did something about the litigation in the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Mr Chaturvedi’s suggestion that given the scope for future investments in the sector, it would be reasonable to take the matter out of court, is seen by all as a laudable formula to pave the way for lot more in the petrochemical sector. For using his power and influence to attract foreign investment, Mr Chaturvedi is 2007’s Bureaucrat for Business.

4. TKA Nair

The Dalal Foundation’s “Money Can Buy You Law” award this year goes to an official who has worked diligently to develop new ways of favouring foreign business. Mr TKA Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, personifies the traits necessary for effective facilitation of various business interests, including but not limited to the chemical and petrochemical industries.

Known as an efficient and seasoned bureaucrat, his skills have been invaluable in helping Dow appreciate how money invested in the right lawyer – Manu Abhishek Singhvi, in this case – will mould the opinion of the Prime Minister himself. The jury admits that it has only relied on the word of our Corporate Partner Dow who said that they had assured Mr. Nair of meeting Mr. Singhvi at the earliest to seek his guidance.

Conveniently placed as the chair of a Task Force on Special Petrochemical Regions, Mr. Nair has pioneered the concept to attract chemical hubs for companies like Dow and DuPont. For putting legacy resolution firmly on the Prime Minister’s immediate agenda, we have no hesitation in awarding Mr TKA Nair the 2007, “Money Can Buy You Law” award.

5. Ronen Sen

The jury is proud to announce that the Mir Zafar “Best Diplomat for Welfare of Transnational Corporations Award” goes to the individual representing the world’s largest free market democracy, namely India , in the No. 1 country in the world, namely USA . Ambassador Mr. Ronen Sen went far beyond the call of duty in reassuring the CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, Mr Andrew Liveris, that resolution of the Bhopal issue was a “tangible deliverable outcome of the Indo-US CEO forum.

6. P. Chidambaram

It is with great pleasure that we are able to confer the Mir Zafar “The World is a Business Award” upon a man who has endeared him to industrialists all over the US of A. As lawyer for Enron, he did not shy away from staking his professional reputation by using public office for private benefit. More recently, he has offered staunch support to extra-legal proposals to enable Dow Chemical a no-strings-attached investment climate in India . His involvement in UK multinational Vedanta as a board member highlights his dauntless approach that sees every challenge as a business opportunity. We are proud to honour Mr Chidambaram’s motto that “The World is a Business.”

7. Abhishek Manu Singhvi

The jury sifted through a number of compelling candidates for The Mir Zafar Award for the “Best Use of an Inside-Outside Strategy.” They were finally swayed by the one-of-a-kind credentials belonging to Congress Party spokesperson, and a member of parliament from Rajasthan, Mr Abhishek Manu Singhvi. He has performed beyond expectations in serving his constituency, the elite, and has used his public office and access to the leading political party in the UPA Government to hedge the bets on the Dow liability game. While his Congress colleagues and co-awardees Manmohan Singh, Kamalnath and Chidambaram figure out ways to resolve Dow’s legacy out-of-court, this astute Supreme Court lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General is batting for the Corporation inside the court, just in the off-chance that the troublesome Bhopalis put a spanner in the Prime Minister’s efforts. In a sense, he leaves his colleagues behind, because he is the only one of the award-winners who is both inside and outside the court. As

Dow Chemical’s legal counsel in the Bhopal clean-up case, he is making history in the use of the corporate veil to help Dow evade liability.

8. Babulal Gaur

The Dalal Foundation has created a special tribute, the Mir Zafar Award for a “Lifetime Spent Evolving Opportunities from Disasters.” This Award was constituted to give proper recognition to the tireless achievements of this former chief minister and two times Gas Relief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Babulal Gaur.

An ardent supporter of out-of-court settlements, Mr. Gaur was among the first to negotiate a one-time settlement for Union Carbide in 1982 with farmers whose buffaloes were killed by toxic effluents from the factory.

To this day, he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to save the Government and Dow Chemical money by braving unpopularity and delaying drinking water projects to sections of society.

For instance, just by delaying the drinking water project for more than 25,000 people currently consuming water contaminated by Carbide’s toxic wastes for more than 15 years, Gaur has saved the exchequer approximately Rs 14 crores in investment.

This prize recognizes his systematic, longstanding and consistent tight-fistedness – a value cherished by the jury — particularly when it comes to dealing with Bhopal victims.

9. Kamal Nath

The Mir Zafar Award for “Extraordinary Contributions to the Progress of International Capital” goes to the Commerce & Industry Minister Mr Kamal Nath. Braving popular protest in his home-state Madhya Pradesh for trying to bury the Bhopal legacy, Mr. Kamal Nath has done passionate work towards transferring Indian governance from New Delhi to Washington . Mr Kamal Nath has drawn inspiration from the case of Enron Corporation to suggest that Dow should not be asked to pay a penny for Bhopal . For his yeoman service to Dow and other American corporations, the jury grants him this award.

Kamal Nath document

10. Montek Singh Ahluwalia

The Mir Zafar’ “Best Use of the Revolving Door” Award can go to none else than Montek Singh Ahluwalia. His life with its constant switches between the World Bank and positions of power in the Indian Government, is a living definition of the Revolving Door. Cu

rrently, vice chairman of the Planning Commission of India. Formerly, a director at the World Bank’s International Monetary Fund, and before that a member of the Planning Commission. All this, plus the fact that he spent the first 11 years of his career in the Bank, has convinced the jury of Mr. Ahluwalia’s credentials as a die-hard Bank man.

Just through the simple act of conveying letters written by people who matter like Ratan Tata and Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to the Prime Minister, Mr. Ahluwalia has played an early and important part in alerting the Prime Minister of Dow Chemical’s misgivings and proposals to assuage them. For being both solution-oriented and effortless, the jury finds the presentation of the Mir Zafar award the most effective way to express its gratitude.

11. Manmohan Singh

It is with great pride that the jury announces the recipient of the Mir Zafar’s “Best Friend of Big Business” Award. Time and again, he has refused to let his position as the leader of the world’s largest democracy stand in the way of his commitment to corporate welfare and the elite consensus. Faced with a choice, for instance in March 2006, between granting an audience to a delegation of Bhopal survivors who were marching to Delhi , and having lunch with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, he unhesitatingly chose the latter.

This is an economist who has his priorities right. Meeting the Bhopalis and their demands would cost billions of dollars, given the scale of damage – historical and ongoing. Dow, on the other hand – liable or not – promised more than $1 billion in investments. Who better to sum up his pragmatism than the Prime Minister himself. “India has to move on despite these tragedies,” he reasoned with a delegation of the Bhopal padayatris when they finally met him on the 7 th day of their hunger strike.

The tact and statesmanship Mr. Prime Minister has shown in pushing through the 1,2,3 agreement right by the parliament, and more importantly in using this opportunity to do deals in the sidelines to advance the interests of American corporations such as Dow, has convinced the jury of his nomination as the only one befitting the “Best friend of Big Business Award.”

RTI documents unearthed from the Prime Minister’s Office
Cabinet Secretary notes

12. Ratan Tata

The jury considers that the winner of the Mir Zafar Award for “Dynastic Loyalty to the Empire” stood head and shoulders above his nearest competitors. It is our enduring privilege to announce the co-chair of the exclusive Indo-US CEO Forum, and chairman of India ‘s largest business conglomerate, Mr Ratan Tata, to be that winner. The word tenacious is not remotely adequate to describe Mr Tata’s ceaseless efforts to bail Dow Chemical out of its Bhopal related liabilities. It takes courage to offer to mop up another company’s mess.

Mr. Tata has won numerous Businessman of the Year awards. After all, while Dow, an American multinational, is stuck in desperation over its inability to gain a foothold in India , Mr. Tata comes from a family that has lived with Bhopal like toxic legacies – in Mithapur, Gujarat, in Jugsalai, near Jamshedpur and Patancheru, near Hyderabad – for decades merely through their connections with others of our fraternity in politics and bureaucracy.

If earlier generation Tatas gained favour with the British empire by aiding Britain ‘s efforts to tame the savages in North Africa , Mr. Ratan Tata has shown filial consistency by aiding the American corporate empire in its relentless conquest of new domains.

High res gallery of the nominees

And the lucky winners are… The Awards Ceremony in words, photographs and video

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