'Charu wanted to go public about his experiences at Tata steel'

A couple of days before scribe-turned-public relations professional Charudutta Deshpande died, he made a telephone call to the then editor of Forbes India magazine, Indrajit Gupta. In the call, he told Gupta that he wanted to make public some of the inner turmoil he had been experiencing. This came as a surprise for Gupta, who knew Deshpande as a hard-nosed professional who was not forthcoming about his personal life.

No quarter: Charu continued to stay in the Tata Steel guesthouse in Jamshedpur till he resigned, as he was not allotted an official bungalow. PIC/Madan Kumar Sahu

The phone call came on June 13, in which Charu spoke about his intention to speak to the media about his experience at TATA Steel. On June 28, he was found hanging in his ground floor flat in Vasai (‘What drove Charu Deshpande, ex Tata Steel employee, to kill himself’, July 4, MiD DAY).

Gupta added, “I have already informed this to the police and the internal inquiry committee formed by TATA to probe Charu’s death.”

Meanwhile, Gupta recalled that Charu had also informed him about an official within TATA Steel, Jamshedpur who did not allow him to meet the local media. He had even threatened Charu, stating that if he was transferred, he would bring the entire department to a halt.

According to journalists in Jamshedpur, the post of Corporate Communications head at TATA Steel, Jamshedpur had been lying vacant for nearly two years after former chief Sanjay Choudhary quit the organisation. Soon after Charu took over the department, he would seldom be allowed to interact with the local journalists, apart from a brief introductory meeting with them.

Madan Kumar Sahu, a local photojournalist, who was shot at by TATA Steel security guards during an agitation in December 2012, confirms the same. Sahu added, “Charu was a nice human being and those who wanted to retain their holdings in the company did not allow him to work freely. Also Charu continued to stay in the the company’s guesthouse in Jamshedpur till he resigned, since he was not given an official bungalow.”

Meanwhile, a six-member police team from Mumbai and Thane, under the leadership of Deputy Superintendent of Police Deepak Devraj, continued with questioning and recording statements of Charu’s colleagues in Corporate Communication and other departments at TATA Steel.

A police official probing the case said, “We have come across some emails that Charu had written to his superiors and are studying the same. We are still in the process of recording the statements of people. At this stage it would be premature to make any statement without laying our hands on any concrete evidence .”

Photojournalist still has splinters in his body
Madan Kumar Sahu (39), was shot at by the security guards at the TATA Steel plant in Jamshedpur on December 24, 2012, when he was taking photographs of contract workers and security guards agitating. Sahu was admitted to a nearby hospital with splinter wounds.

Speaking to MiD DAY from Jamshedpur, he said, “I still have six splinters lodged in my body. The security guards at TATA did not want me to capture the images of agitating workers, they kept warning me against it. I thought they were just empty threats. I told them I was just doing my duty, but by then the guard had opened fire, injuring me. I was rushed to the hospital in a critical condition, and I stayed there for a month.”

Sahu added, “I am awaiting justice even today. I was threatened by the local mafia, who asked me to withdraw the case of attempted murder I had registered with the local police. The irony is that even after sharing the phone numbers from where the calls were made, nothing has happened. The security guards who shot at me are yet to be arrested even after their anticipatory bail application was rejected by the High Court in Jamshedpur.” 

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