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Russi Mody, the sportslover

- Former Tata Steel chairman boosted welfare initiatives

Jamshedpur, May 17: Jamshedpureans will remember former Tata Steel chairman and managing director Russi Mody, who died at the age of 96 at his Calcutta home last night, for reasons more than one.

Besides taking the steel major to new heights, the Padma Bhushan recipient helped groom the steel city into a sports hub. Mody also contested the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha seat as an Independent candidate in 1998 and lost to BJP’s Abha Mahto.

Mody, who joined Tata Steel in 1939 as an office assistant and went on to become joint managing director in 1979 before retiring in 1993, was ailing for the past three years.

He died of a cardiac arrest at his residence on Belvedere Road in Calcutta’s Alipore.

“Russi Modyji will be remembered for his contribution towards improving sports infrastructure in Jamshedpur. He was a genuine sports lover and mingled freely with players of diverse disciplines. JRD Tata Sports Complex and Tata Football Academy were his ideas and came into existence during his tenure as managing director of the steel major,” said Harbhajan Singh, secretary of Jharkhand State Basketball Association.

Steel City Golf, one of Eastern India’s premier amateur tournaments, was also Mody’s brainchild.

He was known for starting super soccer that brought overseas clubs like Bochum Junior and Sao Paulo to play in the steel city. It was during his era that slogans like “We also make steel” and “Sports a way of life” were coined.

Mody’s amiable nature and sense of humour might not have won him an election, but they won him many admirers, including Mahto who defeated him by over 90,000 votes in the 1998 polls.

“Time spent with Russi Modyji will remain etched in my mind for ever. He was amiable and always exchanged pleasantries when we crossed paths during pre-poll campaigns. He had a sweet sense of humour. He used to say ‘Abhaji, irrespective of the poll result, we would share the five-year Parliament term’,” recalled Mahto.

Mody also spared a thought for the poor.

Tata Steel Rural Development Society was formed under his tenure to better the lives of villagers based in Tata Steel operation areas.

An animal lover, Mody was chairman emeritus of Calcutta-based Compassionate Crusaders Trust.

Tata Sons chairman Cyrus P. Mistry said Mody was a stalwart who steered Tata Steel to become one of India’s most respected corporations.

“His vision was all encompassing excellence in business, enduring commitment to society and focus on the dignity of the individual. He could indeed say the company did many things and also made steel. Russi Mody embodied the Tata principles of building trustworthy and socially oriented organisations,” Mistry said.