Railway passengers from Bengaluru Friday found copies of an unauthorised publication with controversial articles on the Shatabdi Express to Chennai, prompting the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to issue a warning to its onboard services licensee.
The Bengaluru-based publication, Aryavarth Express, carried articles titled “Genocide of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, under Islamic rule needs to be recognised” and “UN should label Aurangzeb as perpetuator of holocaust like Hitler” on its front page, among others.
The licensee for the train, PK Shefi, told The Indian Express that the paper got circulated as a supplement inserted by the vendor into the approved newspapers. But a passenger who found the paper tweeted that it was not an “insert”.
“Our boys on board who distributed the newspapers did not understand that the newspapers contained this supplement. In any case they don’t really read the content of the newspapers they distribute,” Shefi said. “I have instructed them to not distribute any supplements or pamphlets and just distribute the main paper from now on.”
“We have warned the licensee. As per contract, the licensee is to provide only complimentary copies of Deccan Herald and a Kannada paper. He should stick to the contract conditions,” Rajni Hasija, Chairman and Managing Director of IRCTC, told The Indian Express.
The “newspaper” was flagged Friday morning by a Twitter user, Gopika Bakshi, who was on the train.
“This morning I boarded the Bangalore-Chennai Shatabdi Express only to be greeted by this blatantly propagandist publication on every other seat- The Aryavarth Express. Had never even heard of it. How is @IRCTCofficial allowing this???,” she tweeted along with a photograph of the publication.
Other users, too, raised questions on whether it was being officially circulated by the Railways-controlled company.
In response to the tweets, IRCTC said it has taken action. “The mentioned ‘Aryavarth Express’ was found inside the regular approved newspaper as insert. The newspaper vendor has been strictly advised to avoid any such inserts in future,” it tweeted.
“Onboard monitoring staff will keep a strict vigil of the same.The licensee of the train has also been counselled,” it added.
The passenger, Bakshi, tweeted: “Thank you for the response but it was definitely not an insert. It was on my seat and many other seats when I arrived.”
IRCTC subsequently deleted its tweets. When asked about this, a spokesman cited the use of the word “counselled” which did not convey the right meaning. He also said the company is looking into how the newspapers got inserted into the approved papers.
The Divisional Railway Manager of Bengaluru also instructed his team to take action on the matter.