Misadventures of Vijay Mallya
Looks like the ‘King of Good Times’ has completed his transformation into a king of farcical mock-shows. Vijay Mallya, the owner of United Breweries and the dysfunction Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) has invited scathing criticism from his own employees, whom the liquor baron hasn’t paid salaries to for the last 18 months. In a damning letter addressed to Mallya on International Women’s Day, the women staffers at KFA have accused him of depriving them of their basic dues and pay slips for over one and half years, without taking into consideration the utter misery that has been brought upon them as a result. They have summarily branded their association with KFA as ‘pathetic’, and called Mallya an ‘unprofessional, inhuman and uninterested’ businessman, whose blatant lack of ethics is in direct contrast to his extravagant lifestyle and penchant for sleazefests. The letter, which goes on to launch a biting attack on KFA’s management ethics and absolute disregard for the employees’ well being, giving them false hopes despite the company’s mounting debts and keeping them in the dark about the aviation industry’s distrust of Mallya, bespeaks the seething anger amongst the airline’s staffers and is equally symptomatic of the nation’s teeming millions who feel betrayed by crony capitalism. In fact, Mallya, despite owing Rs 350 crore as salaries to the employees, nevertheless, has the cheek to splurge crores on acquiring cricketers in IPL auctions, spending Rs 14 crore on Yuvraj Singh for Royal Challengers Bangalore during the IPL-7 bidding for players. Evidently, the business tycoon, who has accrued thousands of crores in bad debt and has defaulted paying back the loan taken from public sector banks, doesn’t find a contradiction in terms in owning a franchise in the sporting farce that is the IPL, even though he refuses to pay the hardworking staffers at KFA their legitimate dues.
Clearly, this lays bare a larger malaise in the country which has been permanently damaged by a greed-driven culture of crony capitalism. How does the BCCI even allow a bank defaulter to own an IPL franchise? No one seems to be bothered by the above, actual, question. It seems perfectly acceptable for our leaders, both political and bureaucratic, to witness a team of staffers go without their salaries for 18 months, but not interrogate or take to task the perpetrator of such injustice. What makes headlines and front pages of tabloids are the gross excesses of the liquor baron and his expensive vacations or dalliances with Bollywood stars, but not his associations with underworld dons, bookies, gamblers and scores of others who sustain the giant grinding wheel of the IPL betting racket. In fact, Mallya on the one hand bats for legalising of sports betting, itself a contentious issue, and on the other, illegally drains the life out of his own employees, who, given the slump in the economy and the hard-hit aviation sector, have found it extremely difficult to get placements. Clearly, until corporates like Mallya keep making money by looting public banks and depriving workers of their rightful share, India will remain a shamed nation.