“Propagandist” newspaper distributed on the train, claims a passenger; Railway launches investigation

A ‘propaganda’ newspaper distributed on board the Bangalore-Chennai Shatabdi Express has snowballed into controversy, sparking political backlash and prompting the IRCTC to open an investigation into the matter. The IRCTC admitted that the newspaper – ‘The Aryavarth Express’ – was “unauthorised”.

The issue was raised by passenger Gopika Bakshi, a gender justice activist, on Twitter. “This morning I boarded the Bangalore-Chennai Shatabdi Express to be greeted by this blatantly propagandistic publication on every other seat – The Aryavarth Express. I had never even heard of it. How does @IRCTCofficial allow this Bakshi wrote Friday on the microblogging site.

Congressman B Manickam Tagore also asked how such a newspaper found its way onto a train. “Will the Minister for Hon’ble Rail order an inquiry into this?” Whether it is the tried and true policy of @RailMinIndia to allow propaganda material in the Shatabdi express? Will write and raise the issue in Loksabha.#IndiaAgainstHate,” he tweeted.

Another Congressman, Karti Chidambaram, also asked how such a newspaper got into the list of publications subscribed by the IRCTC. Sources said the IRCTC, the railways ticketing and catering arm, has approved the Deccan Herald and another local newspaper as the two publications to be distributed on trains in the area. These logs are distributed on board by IRCTC license holders.

“We have ordered an investigation into this and action will be taken against those responsible. This document is not part of the IRCTC approved publications,” said IRCTC spokesperson Anand Jha. The Divisional Director of Railways, Chennai said an investigation into the matter was being carried out by DRM Bangalore.

“The latest update is that DRM Bangalore is investigating how an unauthorized newspaper found its way onto the train. We like to inform everyone that the train belongs to Bengaluru Division and the incident happened there. We are sure they would take appropriate action,” he said in a tweet. In a subsequent tweet, the IRCTC said the newspaper in question had been found in regular newspapers and approved as an insert.

“The newsagent has been strictly advised to avoid such inserts in the future. On-board supervisory staff will ensure strict surveillance. The train license holder was also advised,” he said. In a response to the IRCTC tweet, Bakshi hit back at the rail subsidiary’s claim, saying “it wasn’t an insert – it was in my seat when I boarded. Deccan Herald was on the next seat.

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