A whistleblower has decided to go public with internal communications of the Essar Group, claiming these show favours to ministers, bureaucrats and journalists to push business interests. The correspondence will be the subject matter of a PIL being filed in the Supreme Court by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation. Ritu Sarin & Appu Esthose Suresh sift through the documents:
On June 30, 2013, the Captain of Sunrays receives an email: “There are total 9 pax, they will be staying with you for two nights…”
It is from the secretariat of the Chairman of the Essar Group. The message is clear: Nine passengers, two nights on board Sunrays. The Captain awaits instructions. Sunrays is no ordinary boat, nor its visitors.
The luxury yacht of the Essar Vice Chairman, the 85-metre long teal-and-white dream machine has been designed with great care, in horn and mother-of-pearl veneer, complete with a jacuzzi, a massage room.
And then another email the same day: “Mr Nitin Gadkari (former President of BJP – the opposition) is in Europe and would like to spend 2-3 days aboard Sunrays… let me know where exactly these people should arrive to get on board Sunrays – will it be Nice or elsewhere?”
In Mumbai, the Essar office is told that Sunrays will be anchored in Beaulieu sur-Mer, a seaside village on the French Riviera.
On July 5, the Captain receives another email: “Guests will arrive in Nice on afternoon of July 7 and will depart on July 9… kindly make arrangement for picking them up from Nice on July 7… all 9 guests are pure vegetarian — kindly make the food arrangements accordingly…”
According to the itinerary, the Captain arranges the transfer of the Gadkari family from Nice airport to the yacht via helicopter on July 7 and the return transfer to the airport on July 9.
Among the nine passengers on board Sunrays for two nights are Gadkari, wife Kanchan, their sons Nikhil and Sarang, and daughter Ketaki.
Phone numbers of Nikhil and Sarang are with the Essar office as “contact persons”.
On July 7, the day the family arrives, emails are exchanged again. An Essar executive sends the Captain a last-minute reminder: “Guests are very important people as discussed. Kindly see they are comfortable.”At 7.32 pm, the Captain sends a message from a BlackBerry: “Please be advised that all guests arrived on board Sunrays approximately 45 mins ago…”