The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) distanced itself from its affiliate magazine Panchjanya on September 5, following a heated controversy over the publication’s attack on Infosys. Stating that the magazine is not the official mouthpiece of the RSS, the Sangh’s all-India publicity in-charge, Sunil Ambekar noted that the views in the article should be considered as personal. Ambekar said that the role of Infosys is critical for the development of the country despite certain issues with the portal developed by the IT giant.
Ambekar wrote on Twitter, “As an Indian company, Infosys has made seminal contribution in progress of the country. There might be certain issues with a portal run by Infosys, but the article published by Panchjanya in this context only reflects individual opinion of the author.” He further added, “Panchjanya is not mouthpiece of the RSS and the said article or opinions expressed in it should not be linked with the RSS.”
Panchjanya, a journal championing the Hindu cause, published an article on Infosys in its latest edition released on September 5, with the company’s founder N.r. Narayana Murthy’s image as the cover. The article alleged that the Infosys management was “deliberately trying to destabilize India’s economy”. It also accused Infosys of being a part of an “anti-national” conspiracy to hurt the country’s economy and belittle the name of the prime minister. The article further alleged the Bangalore-based tech giant of funding left wing outfits, fact-checking websites, news portals, and organisations that fuel caste-based hatred.
The sharp criticism and allegations from the RSS-linked journal was in the backdrop of issues surrounding the Goods and Services Tax (GST) portal and the new Income Tax portal of the Government of India. “Such difficulties have an impact on peoples’ faith in the government. Can Infosys be lax in the services it offers in foreign countries? Questions are aplenty,” mentioned the article.
The article invited criticism from the opposition and industry leaders. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called the article a “personalised attack” on not only the company but also “its esteemed founders”. Speaking to NDTV, Ramesh said, “This entire issue is unprecedented, unwarranted and atrocious. Whatever problems the finance ministry may have with Infosys on the GST platform or the income tax platform, it’s between the finance ministry and Infosys to resolve. But for an RSS publication to resort to a personalised attack on not only the company but also some of the most esteemed founders of the company, I think it is absolutely condemnable.” He continued, “In fact, the article is anti-national. I find it personally demeaning to see Narayana Murthy being attacked the way he was attacked.”
Hours after Ambekar’s tweet distancing the Sangh from the journal, Ramesh said, “This is typical of RSS. Why did they allow the article to appear? It is a four-page article, a personalised article, which has appeared in their mouthpiece. I am afraid the defence by the RSS just doesn’t hold any water.”
Former Chief Financial Officer of Infosys, T.V. Mohandas Pai also defended the company’s GST backend infrastructure and the new Income Tax Portal and noted that the author must be unaware of how big projects are executed. Speaking to the Indian Express, Pai said, “Before a project like this is released, there is something called a user acceptance test.” He added, “Only after they do rigorous testing, is it released to the public. It is obvious that the department (Income Tax) owes responsibility for not doing adequate testing.”
Forbes Marshall co-chairman Naushad Forbes noted that the RSS or the journal is a private body and have the right to express their personal opinions. “That’s what freedom of speech is all about,” he said.
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However, Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar said that the article was based on facts and the publication stands firm with the report. He tweeted: “There is a lot of hue and cry over the cover story of the 5 September issue of Panchjanya. Everyone should read this cover story. Three things are worth noting in this context. 1) Panchjanya stands firm by its report. 2) If Infosys has objections, it should present its side by urging for a more thorough investigation of these facts in the interest of the company. 3) Some elements are mentioning RSS in this episode due to vested interests. Remember, this report is not related to the Sangh, the report is about Infosys. It is a matter of facts and facts relating to the incompetence of the company.”
Last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman summoned the CEO and managing director of Infosys, Sahil Parekh, to discuss the glitches in the IT portal. Reportedly, the finance minister expressed deep disappointment as the glitches in the portal have been persistent even after two and a half months of its launch. Sitharaman gave Parekh until September 15 to fix all issues in the portal, which has not been accessible since August 21.