The Indian Railway on Friday faced flak after serving tea to its passengers in paper cups with "Main Bhi Chowkidar" (I am also watchman) written on them. The decision evoked angry reactions from social media users, who questioned why Modi has resorted to such stunts to appease the voters.
The matter came to news after one of the passengers, retired government officer D.N. Mohanty, travelling on the Delhi-Kathgodam Shatabdi Express, posted a photograph of a paper tea cup on Twitter with ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ written on it in Hindi along with a message of ‘rashtra ki raksha’ (nation’s protection).
Another Twitter user Payal Mehta tweeted that Train No. 12040, Kathgodam Shatabdi has served tea twice in ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ cups. Tagging the Election Commission spokesperson and the Ministry of Railways, she asked, “Is this not violation of MCC?”
A colleague shares how #MainBhiChowkidar branding is being used on train....Train No. 12040 #KathgodamShatabdi has tea served twice in these cups!Is this not violation of MCC??@RailMinIndia @SpokespersonECI @PiyushGoyal @ECISVEEP pic.twitter.com/hZjhCnUP9U
— Payal Mehta/પાયલ મેહતા/ पायल मेहता/ পাযেল মেহতা (@payalmehta100) March 29, 2019
Many users on Twitter asked the Election Commission whether it is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. The advertisement on the paper cup was by Sankalp Foundation, an NGO and was served twice to the passengers. The name of the foundation’s president, Rajeev Mittal, was also written on the cup. Meanwhile, officials of the railway said that it has withdrawn the cup and penalised the contractor.
NewsClick approached Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) spokesperson Siddharth Singh but he refused to comment over the issue, asking to refer to the official statement released by IRCTC.
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The statement read, “Few cups were used only today for a very short period. The cups have since been withdrawn and clear instructions are already available in this matter and are being reiterated for strict compliance.”
It further states, “The licensees are supposed to take prior permission for printing advertisements from IRCTC. However, in this case no such approval has been taken. Rs 1 Lakh fine has been imposed on the licensee and has also been served a show cause notice. The space in cups and other such materials is used for paid publicity by the licensees as per the agreement.”
The matter has also been referred to the Election Commission of India.
This is not the first time when Modi government has used a government platform to woo voters before the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. Recently, Railways and Civil Aviation Ministries used Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pictures on rail tickets and Air India boarding passes. Later, Election Commission of India issued a show cause notice to both the ministries for violating the Model Code of Conduct.
The Model Code of Conduct came into force on March 10 when the Election Commission announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections beginning from April 11.
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