IRCTC sent two crore emails highlighting PM's relationship with Sikhs
Between December 8 and December 12, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) sent out two crore emails to its customers highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's relationship with the Sikh community. The emails, listing 13 decisions taken by the PM, were sent in the backdrop of the farmers' protest that has been going on for more than two weeks now against three agriculture reforms.
A public sector undertaking of the Ministry of Railways, IRCTC handles catering, tourism, and online tickets. Evidently, the company has key details of lakhs of its customers, which were exploited for a rare "outreach program". The 47-page booklet, titled "PM Modi and his government's special relationship with Sikh", was released in Hindi, English, and Punjabi.
IRCTC's top Public Relations Officer Sidharth Singh said all government departments sent the booklet to people, adding that those with the surname "Singh" and those hailing from the Punjab region were targeted. The booklet was sent from email@example.com to those who had given their email IDs while booking tickets. Officials told PTI that sending the email was a "conscious choice."
Reportedly, the email started with a citation from the Quami Seva Award, given to PM Modi, and then focused on the measures taken by his government including the FCRA registration granted to Sri Harmandir Sahib, justice given to 1984 anti-Sikh riots' victims, and making langars tax-free. The other pointers were "Sri Kartarpur Corridor: Seamless access" and "Jallianwala Bagh Memorial - saluting sacrifices honoring memories."
A few people who received the email, took to Twitter to reveal their thoughts about the "outreach program." "Does #irctc allowed to use our data for party campaigns? Also targeted campaign by the government to cool down the anti-government sentiments among Sikhs. Nice strategy, (sic)" wrote @thejusticeprime. Rajinder Singh Bhasin from Chennai asked why the government is not listening to farmers.
With a row sparked due to the mails, IRCTC defended itself asserting no particular community was targeted. "The mails have been sent to all, irrespective of any particular community. This is not the first instance. Earlier also such activities have been undertaken by IRCTC to promote government welfare schemes in the public interest," the wing of Ministry of Railways said.
Separately, another official dismissed the controversy saying that reaching out to people isn't wrong. "Which professional company doesn't analyze the demographic profile of the audience where the communication is to be delivered to? Why are some surprised if a government organization is able to do as much or even better than what the corporates do day in and day out?" the person said.
The Centre's outreach program was bound to hog the limelight, considering the massive agitation. Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, want three laws, which the government says will increase their income, to be repealed. They argued that the reforms will leave them at the mercy of big corporate lawyers. Several rounds of talks, wherein the government offered to amend the laws, remained inconclusive.