Days after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s objection to doormats depicting the Indian flag being sold on Amazon’s Canada portal elicited “regret” from the company, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das on Sunday asked the e-commerce firm to “behave” and “desist from being flippant about Indian symbols & icons”. In the first of three tweets put out on Sunday evening, Das said, “Amazon, better behave. Desist from being flippant about Indian symbols & icons. Indifference will be at your own peril.” This was followed by: “Comment on amazon was as a citizen of India as I felt strongly about it. Nothing more should be read into it.”
“Remain committed to economic reforms, ease of doing business & open trade. Sometimes get touchy when our icons are involved,” he said in his third tweet. A 1980-batch IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, Das is scheduled to retire on February 28. Reports suggest his name is under consideration for SEBI chairman. Last year, his name had also done the rounds during the selection process for the Reserve Bank of India governor.
WATCH VIDEO | After Sushma Swaraj, Economic Affairs Secretary Slams Amazon For Selling Indian Flag Doormats
NASSCOM President R Chandrashekhar told The Indian Express that he didn’t see Swaraj’s and Das’s comments as “targeting a company”. “To me it does not appear to be a case of targeting a particular company. One may have an opinion on the issue itself, and many people will have different opinions. But I don’t think that it’s a case of either targeting a particular company, or something like this would impact investment as such.”
At the same time, Chandrashekhar added, “It’s a view that has been conveyed, it’s not a binding order in a legal sense. And I’m sure that view would be taken cognisance of… Actions of the government will always have to be taken under the existing laws. I think we shouldn’t anticipate too much but I think when a sentiment is conveyed by a government, then it has a very different connotation. Then it is not just an opinion expressed by any individual. It is conveying at a very serious level, a national view of things.”
E-mails sent to Amazon.com and Amazon India seeking comments on the issue did not elicit any response till the time of publication. Last week, after Swaraj received complaints from a Twitter user about doormats with the Indian flag on Amazon’s Canada portal, she had asked the online retailer to withdraw the products and tender an unconditional apology. She had warned that if Amazon did not apologise, none of its officials would be granted Indian visas, and the visas issued earlier would also be rescinded.
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Following this, Amazon had pulled down the products under question from its Canada portal, with Amazon India’s Vice-President and Country Manager Amit Agarwal writing to Swaraj expressing “regret at hurting Indian sensibilities”. Agarwal had also written that after learning of the products’ listing, Amazon “immediately removed them from the Canadian website and implemented measures to ensure that these products could not be sold on any of our other marketplaces or websites”.
Agarwal had also invoked the investment commitment made by its CEO Jeff Bezos on his visits to India. “Amazon remains steadfastly committed to India, as evidenced by CEO Jeff Bezos’ announcement last year of our plans to invest $5 billion in India,” Agarwal had written in the letter.
Later though, Swaraj had received complaints from some Twitter users that beach sandals with Mahatma Gandhi’s image were being sold on the Amazon US site.