Political storm in a teacup: EC issues notice to Railways over 'Main Bhi Chowkidar' slogan on cups in Shatabdi

Ashish Mani Tiwari | Mar 29, 2019 | 4 min read

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Ashish Mani Tiwari 

As the election fever picks up in the entire nation, all the major parties are busy in campaigning and promoting their ideologies. And the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, which initiated the ‘Main Bhi Chowikdaar’ propaganda witnessed some hard times on social media, as passengers of Kathgodam Shatabdi Express 12040 (which runs between New Delhi to Kathgodam) were served tea in paper cups printed with the campaign slogan “Main Bhi chowkidar”.

The incident is a clear case of the violation of model code of conduct.

Media reports suggested that taking cognizance of the matter, the Election Commission issued a fresh show-cause notice to the Railways over the "Main bhi chowkidar" cups on Saturday evening.

The notice has specifically asked to explain the whole incident and accountability of the person responsible for it. However, sources in the Railways have confirmed that not a single show-cause notice has been received from the Election Commission till now on the issue.

Our repeated calls to the Election Commission’s office went answered.

IRCTC to issue advisory

Meanwhile, a source in Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) confirmed that the catering wing of the Indian Railways will soon be issuing advisories to respective zones in this matter so that incidents like this do not take place again.

“Every train has one supervisor so all the trains running across the length and breadth of the country will be intimated about the advisory,” he added.

As per the March 29 press statement of IRCTC, “The space on cups and other such materials is used for paid publicity by the licensees as per the agreement.

The licensees are supposed to take prior permission for printing advertisements from IRCTC. However, in this case, no such approval was taken. Rs 1 Lakh fine has been imposed on the licensee and has also been served a show cause notice.”

Press statement further stated, “Explanation has been called for, from the on-board supervisory staff/pantry in- charges for carelessness. And few cups were used only today for a very short period. The cups have since been withdrawn.

 

Political ‘Chai pe charcha’

Soon after the incident, several parties including Aam Aadmi Party and Samajwadi Party slammed Election Commission over the whole incident. AAP Uttar Pradesh Spokesperson Vaibhav Maheshwari stated, “First of all Election Commission's guidelines are only for opposition parties not for BJP. Secondly, after the incident, it is quite evident that Election Commission (EC) is acting like BJP agent and in today’s digital era Election Commission took so much time to investigate the whole incident, it shows that EC deliberately tried to help BJP”.

Terming the incident a poll propaganda, senior Samajwadi Party leader Dr Sunilam said, “It’s a clear case of violation of model code of conduct and Shatabdi is an executive train, if this type of incident can happen in Shatabdi like trains, then the Election Commission must come up with a permanent solution on the whole issue”.

“And a case must be registered against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as he is responsible for creating ruckus nowadays in the entire country,” he added.

 

NGO says ‘not involved’

The controversial tea cups carried the name of NGO Sankalp Seva Foundation and the logo of another NGO Utthan Seva Sansthan. The cups also highlighted ‘saving the country from terrorism’ and ‘respect for the soldiers’ slogans.

Utthan Seva Sansthan member, Himanshu Mishra said, “We had not distributed any type of materials including cups, which carried PM Modi’s picture with the slogan “Main Bhi chowkidar”. “As I got to know about the matter yesterday, we are looking into it. We have got nothing to do with BJP,” he added.

Requesting anonymity, a regular train passenger shared, “If this incident can happen in a train like Shatabdi, then Election Commission must keep a watch on other trains too, as it was Shatabdi Express, the incident came into light”.

 

Violation of Railways General Conditions of Contract

Bhopal based Railways expert and senior journalist, Pravesh Gautam stated that “Advertisements within railways has to be approved before display. Usually, licensee/contractor does not take prior approval for advertisement. The incident happened in Kathgodam Shatabdi Express is a serious violation of Railway guidelines and General Conditions Contract”.

“Here the Railways should have imposed heavy penalty say 10% of contract value or reserve price. Imposing penalty of Rs 1 Lakh is merely a formality, as contractor already benefitted from advertiser for this advertisement and this is usual practice in Railways, he added.

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