After receiving a reality check from the public, government and few media publications, the tech giants of the country have thrust their PR machinery into overdrive to churn articles to push the government on the backfoot. Reportedly, news articles stating ‘India Inc is scared’ and that the companies are afraid of the government, citing anonymous sources have started doing the rounds. Instead of taking the criticism in their stride, which is legitimate — industries are more focused on maintaining the status quo. Leading the charge of such reportage was NDTV which wrote in one of its articles, “The RSS called Infosys “anti-national” for letting down the tax system, sending a chill through the industry wary of falling on the wrong side of the PM Modi government.”
It is significant to point out that RSS had categorically distanced itself from the comments made by Panchjanya magazine. Thus, an editor or a writer presenting their views, however unnecessary they may seem should not have rattled the tech behemoths.
Why so rattled?
These companies routinely face ‘not-so-good’ press but never have they felt fearful. So how come a single magazine article rattled them? It means the government was indeed right in speaking about their shortcomings and because these companies do not want to rectify it, they have instead resorted to practising the tried and tested method of using paid media to do their bidding.
Such theatrics using words like ‘chill’ was supposed to paint a picture that the government was after the tech giants, much like Xi Jinping in China. However, this is the same government that has brought the revolutionary Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme that has led to a 45 per cent growth in the exports. The same PLI scheme which the tech companies across the country are using to cash in handsome rewards. Thus, this bogus talk of fear and dread is hogwash at best.
Tata and Piyush Goyal
Similarly, last month, Union Textiles Minister Piyush Goyal had given a gentle tap to India Inc by stating that the industry must work for national interest, not only seek personal gain, whilst singling out the Tata group. The Tata group had objected to proposed policy changes for e-commerce and that had hurt the Minister.
While the objection was welcome, pushing it through the way Tata did was unceremonious. The Modi government has been here for the industry and in a recent statement, Consumer Affairs Secretary Leena Nandan said that the centre will take a “balanced” approach while finalising the proposed amendments to Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020.
However, the media has continued to spin its narrative and used Piyush Goyal’s statements to project a climate of doom and gloom.
Infosys and its blotchy work – the Income Tax website
As reported by TFI, last month, the Income-tax department had sent Infosys in a fit of panic and tizzy by tweeting about the inefficiency of the Income Tax website. In its tweet, the IT Department announced that Infosys’ Managing Director (MD) and CEO, Sunil Parikh had been summoned “to explain to the Finance Minister as to why even after 2.5 months since the launch of new e-filing portal, glitches in the portal have not been resolved.”
Ministry of Finance has summoned Sh Salil Parekh,MD&CEO @Infosys on 23/08/2021 to explain to hon'ble FM as to why even after 2.5 months since launch of new e-filing portal, glitches in the portal have not been resolved. In fact,since 21/08/2021 the portal itself is not available.
— Income Tax India (@IncomeTaxIndia) August 22, 2021
The portal – www.incometax.gov.in has had a bumpy start ever since it went live on June 7 as taxpayers, tax professionals and other stakeholders reported glitches in its functioning. The portal has been developed by the company, and one would have expected it to work smoothly after ironing out the initial glitches, which happens with every website.
However, major glitches in the portal led to annoying taxpayers venting out their anger against the dysfunctional product developed by Infosys. And to this date, nearly three months after the launch of the website, the taxpayers are finding it difficult to complete their business.
The magazine controversy
In the cover story titled “Saakh Aur Aaghaat” (Reputation and Harm), Panchjanya alleged this was not the first time Infosys had done shoddy work when handling a government project. Citing problems in websites for Income tax, GST and Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the magazine remarked: “When these things happen repeatedly, it is bound to raise suspicion. There are accusations that the Infosys management is deliberately trying to destabilise India’s economy… Could it be that some anti-national power is trying to harm India’s economic interests through Infosys?”
Hitesh Shankar, the Editor of Panchjanya took to Twitter to share that the magazine stood by its report and if the company had any problem, it should present its side.
There is a lot of hue and cry over the cover story of the 5th September issue of Panchjanya. Everyone should read this cover story. https://t.co/gsDI52GN15
— Hitesh Shankar (@hiteshshankar) September 5, 2021
The magazine might have gone a little overboard with the conspiracy theory but it raised an important point. There is a clear pattern in the way the company operates. The government whilst giving it the tender of big national projects also risks the prospect of losing the data of the crores of Indian citizens to the wrong hands.
Thus, Infosys needs to pull its socks, start a cleaning process and come up with better and much more furnished products, otherwise, the furore would only continue to grow. Trying to shed the responsibility by using the PR machinery is only going to backfire.