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“East India Company 2.0”: RSS-linked magazine targets “Amazon for ‘Paying Bribes’

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi:E-commerce major, Amazon, has been called “East India Company 2.0” in the latest controversial cover story by RSS-linked weekly, Panchjanya, also alleging that the firm has paid crores of rupees in bribes for favourable government policies. In its latest edition, which will hit the stands on October 3, Panchjanya has carried a cover story that is highly critical of Amazon.

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Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar on Monday tweeted an image of the new cover, which features Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the headline “#Amazon: East India Company 2.0”.

The cover refers to allegations Amazon’s legal representatives bribed Indian officials, and asks: “What did it (the company) do wrong it needed to bribe… Why do people consider this company a threat to indigenous entrepreneurship, economic freedom and culture?”

Last week the government said that bribery charges involving Amazon – specifically questions raised over the payment of an estimated ₹ 8,500 crore in legal fees – would be fully investigated.

“… it is time to think where all it is going… whole system seems to work on bribes and that is not the best of business practices,” unnamed Indian government officials were quoted as saying.

The US-headquartered company has also launched an internal inquiry into claims that surfaced after a whistleblower flagged alleged bribe payments.

The company’s senior corporate counsel has reportedly been sent on leave.

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It is unclear when and in which state the alleged acts of bribery took place.

Both sides have stressed “zero tolerance towards corruption”.

Earlier in September, Panchjanya lashed out Infosys – an information technology behemoth widely seen as one of India’s biggest success stories in the global business community.

The article attacked Infosys over the repeated glitches that have marked the rollout of the new income tax e-filing portal; the company was accused an “anti national conspiracy”.

The attack – in a magazine considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government – also led an executive working at a global consultancy to tell news agency Reuters “everyone is scared”.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called the article and its content “absolutely condemnable”, and said that it was, in fact, the magazine that was “anti national” for attacking Infosys.

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The Panchjanya article on Infosys came a month after Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal took a swipe at the $106 billion Tata Group’s objections to proposed policy changes for e-commerce.

“The frontal attack on iconic elements of Indian businesses have only buttressed the need for companies to ensure they are conforming, not just with tax issues, but with other government initiatives,” Dilip Cherian, co-founder of a leading PR firm, told Reuters.

The government moved to distance itself from the Panchjanya article criticising Infosys; Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman called it “not right”.

The RSS also distanced itself from that article; spokesperson Sunil Ambekar said the magazine “is not a mouthpiece… and article or opinions in it should not be linked with the RSS.”

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