Friday, Feb 03, 2023

Tata-Air India deal: Jairam Ramesh shares Indira Gandhi’s letter to JRD Tata after he was removed as chairman

"You were not merely Chairman, but the founder and nurturer who felt deep personal concern,” former PM Indira Gandhi's note read.

JRD Tata, chairman of Tata Sons, on the 30th anniversary day of the inaugural Karachi-Bombay flight (Express archive photo)

With Tata Sons set to regain control of Air India, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh shared a letter written by former prime minister Indira Gandhi, addressed to the founder of the airline, JRD Tata, after he was asked to step down as chairman.

“In February 1978, JRD Tata was summarily removed by the Morarji Desai Govt as Chairman of Air India—a position he had occupied since March 1953. Here is an exchange that followed between JRD and Indira Gandhi, who was then out of power. Her letter was handwritten,” the Congress leader tweeted.

On February 1, 1978, the then-Morarji Desai government removed Chairman JRD Tata from the boards of Air India and Indian Airlines. He was later reinstated on the boards of both airlines in April 1980 by Indira Gandhi. But he did not return as chairman.

In a handwritten letter in 1978, Gandhi offered her condolences for the government’s decision and lauded Tata’s efforts in building the airlines. “You were not merely Chairman, but the founder and nurturer who felt deep personal concern,” her note read. “It was this and the meticulous care you gave to the smallest detail, including the decor and the saris of the hostesses, which raised Air-India to the international level and indeed to the top of the list.”

“We were proud of you and of the Airline. No one can take this satisfaction from you nor belittle government’s debt to you in this respect,” she wrote. Acknowledging the “misunderstanding” between the two of them, Gandhi said she had to function under great “pressure”, and also indicated that there were “rivalries within the Ministry of Civil Aviation”.

Ramesh also shared Tata’s response to the letter, sent nearly two weeks later. “I was touched by your kind reference to the part I played in building up the airline. I was fortunate in the loyalty and enthusiasm of my colleagues and staff and the support I got from government without either of which I could have achieved little,” he said.

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The government, in 1953, had taken control of the airline from the Tata Group, which founded the carrier as Tata Airlines in 1932.

First published on: 09-10-2021 at 11:27 IST
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