Many people think of Jamshedpur, now in Jharkhand and earlier in Bihar, as a place in the back of beyond. In fact, when I visited Mumbai during my days at Jamshedpur, my friend would often say, “You must be pleased to have the chance to come to Mumbai.” My response would always be, “No, I feel relieved that I can go back to Jamshedpur.” Jamshedpur is my true home, a city of gracious living and one that grows on you.
My fondest memory of Jamshedpur is of the warm and cordial relationship between the officers and the workers. There are no barriers — everyone intermingles and enjoys each other’s company.
Earlier, clubs were the major source of entertainment as television hadn’t invaded our lives. Everyone in Jamshedpur came to the clubs to see movies, play games and sports. In fact it was at the Parsi Club that I first met my wife, Daisy, and we soon got married. Whenever I go to Jamshedpur I still enjoy going to the club and playing cards with the same people I used to.
A model city — a better life
Because of Tata Steel’s commitment to the city and concern for the people of Jamshedpur, the company takes care of most of the civic amenities. The government does not have to spend on anything. The company takes care of everything — water, infrastructure, power, greening of the city. The government has leased some 15,000 acres of land to Tata Steel, which sub-leases it to Tata Motors and other companies. Tata Steel ensures that there is no overcrowding in the city. Surprisingly, the town itself has not changed much over the years. There are no skyscrapers or concrete structures.
It’s not surprising then that people who live there are totally committed to Tata Steel. We have seen families where the second, third and even the fourth generation have been proud employees of the company.
I must admit that Jamshedpur is not entirely a benevolent exercise on the part of Tata Steel. We have to provide these facilities so that people will want to come and stay there. People from large metros are not very keen to move to Jamshedpur. I have actually plotted the phenomenon. The first two years are critical as the wives miss the excitement of big cities. After two years in Jamshedpur, they get used to the lifestyle. Then there is no moving away.
Non-employees of Tata Steel also have a tremendous sense of loyalty towards Tata Steel and Jamshedpur because the facilities are the same for everyone. I often ask non-Tata Steel people, with transferable jobs at banks, etc, what they think of Jamshedpur. They tell me that they see it as a golden posting, quite unlike being sent to Guwahati or Patna.
But things are changing in Jamshedpur. Roads have become congested as most people commute by two-wheelers or cars today unlike the earlier days when people commuted on bicycles. Commercial activity is coming in. Tata Steel has allocated space to various entrepreneurs to put up malls. It has spent money on the township, houses and clubs.
The flip side is that the people of Jamshedpur have begun to take things for granted — they have had it too soft and too easy, for too long.
I can give examples. The residents receive water directly from the waterworks for all 24 hours of the day. One year the lake level went down and we decided to provide direct water supply for 16 hours only. So for eight hours, people would have to store water. An officer’s wife wrote to me, saying that since you have put this hardship on us, please supply us free plastic buckets. I wrote back: Madam, there are plenty of plastic buckets available in our bazaars, which you can buy.
If a mosquito is seen, the fumigating machine is immediately pressed into service. The staff at the Town Department go around searching for the water deposit that is breeding mosquitoes.
A safe city
Jamshedpur = Tata Steel
After a few months when I got involved in my work, I also got into the groove of life in Jamshedpur. Three years later I was doing exactly the same thing. I would call up the plant, in the interval, to find out what was happening.
In Jamshedpur, your life and your conversations revolve around the plant. We never spoke about fashion shows or cricket or even politics. We only talked about Tata Steel. Your life at work and outside were inextricably entwined.
Sooner or later people living in Jamshedpur, whether employees or