Passengers who reached for a cup of tea on the Shatabdi Express to Amritsar on Thursday would have found two familiar faces staring at them — along with an interesting appeal.
There was also a toll free number and a few lines in Hindi that started like this: “Bhajpa ke sadasya banein saath aayein, desh banayein (Become a member of BJP come along, build the nation)”.
Behind these cups lies the story of a railway caterer with links to a New Delhi-based “NGO started in November 2014” that issued the ads, and an alleged mix-up in the supply of the cups.
With a catering staffer in Amritsar confirming that these cups were used in trains over the past week, a senior railways official told The Indian Express that he “was going through the rules” to decide on the “action to be taken”.
Apart from the appeal and the photos, the ads say that they have been printed on behalf of “Sankalp Foundation” which describes itself on its website (sankalpfoundation.co.in) as a “charitable trust without any object of profit making”.
The only two faces displayed on this website are that of Rajeev Mittal, its “senior vice president” and Satya Bhushan Jain, its “vice president” — the designations have been reversed on the cups. Mittal is also a director of R K Associates and Hoteliers Pvt Ltd (RKAHPL), which provides catering services to the railways.
When contacted, Mittal said, “I have only one vendor and he mixed this up. The cups that got used in trains were actually meant for political rallies. In the past, such cups were used in the rallies of Amit Shahji. I had asked the vendor to strictly ensure that these cups were not used in the trains. The cups that were to be used in trains were to advertise the Swachh Bharat campaign.”
Jain, meanwhile, said that the cups with the BJP appeal were to be used in universities and bus stands. Denying that he was linked to the BJP, he said, “I support whoever does good. If the Congress does good, I will support it.”
Jain confirmed that his NGO had no links to the other Sankalp Foundation (sankalpfoundation.org) that is active mainly in the education sector.
When contacted, Naresh Chander Goel, Divisional Railway Manager (Ferozepur Division), said, “No one has taken any permission from us to use these cups. Trains cannot be used for promoting any political activity.”
Goel later added, “I have warned him (Rajeev Mittal) not to use these cups in trains. He has claimed that the cups were used in the trains by mistake. I have warned him that a fine may be imposed.”