MUMBAI: Ratan Tata is a tough man who has fought and won many corporate battles, but this was different. His eyes welled up when the wife of one Taj victim (Thomas Varghese who died while saving people in Wasabi) told him: My husband died for a cause and will always remain a role model for me and my children. I never knew I was living with such a great man for the past 20 years.
The incident happened six days after the carnage when Mr Tata and Indian Hotels Company vice-chairman RK Krishna Kumar were meeting the family members of the 12 Taj hotel employees who lost their lives. Mr Tata asked for all family members to be flown to Mumbai as he insisted on meeting them all.
While Mr Tatas one-on-one meetings made an impact, it was not as if the Group left out the scores of other victims of the carnage. For the very first time, seeing the overwhelming response from the public, the Tatas set up a Taj Public Services Welfare Trust, which was registered on December 19. The money, of course, came pouring in and more than Rs 9 crore has been collected so far, of which Rs 4 crore has been disbursed.
Rehabilitation work started in the first week of January, when, along with help from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) S Parasuraman and the Mumbai city collector, victims were identified and around 250 families were reached in two-and-half months.
The idea was to ensure that the money reaches the right person, said HN Shrinivas, senior VP (human resources and business excellence), Taj. In fact, Mr Shrinivas said his team is still paying 100 families between Rs 7,500 and 10,000 per month.
For the Taj employees, even those severely affected by the trauma, measures to soothe the nerves are still on. Activities like town hall meetings, counselling sessions, group interactions, workshops, meditation programs and professional training are being organised on a regular basis.
Also, in cases like that of Karambir Singh Kang general manager of Taj, who lost his family senior managers like Abhijit Mukerji, Ajoy Misra, Shrinivas and even Krishna Kumar would make it a point to drop in regularly to meet them. Despite the ferocity of the dastardly attack, the Taj management got their act together quite fast.
Within two to three days a trauma centre was set up at Wellington Mews for both guests and employees. Around 500 employees, out of the total 1,710, were working on that night when the terrorists struck, so large scale interactions were done in batches of 200-300. More than 15-20 trained social workers and clinical psychologists spoke with the employees and discussed their anxieties over 3-4 hour sessions in the next 3 days.
The biggest healer came on December 21 when we opened the doors. There were 1,200 staff members serving the over 1,000 people who came to show their solidarity to the Group, said Mr Shrivinas.
Five outreach centers were set up within the week and were kept running from 45 days to two months. Two counselling centres were set up at Taj and Taj Lands End and even now, a counseller comes in three days a week for three hours.
We covered not only the employees, but even the parents and wives of the employees, said Mr Shrinivas. Currently, education of around 30 children is being supported by the Trust, while some families have been provided with microfinance assistance, and close to 30 people are undergoing vocational training.
The Trust is also partnering with ITI, run by the government to offer courses in hospitality and service- related sectors, and it will be dedicated for victims of any future events. The progress that we forge from pain is unprecedented and that was the spirit, said the HR head.