FACT CHECK

The Biggest Lies That the Media Told You in 2017

Media analysis India

As stories do the rounds in the media, mainstream and social, about who claimed what in 2017 and whether such claims stand up to facts or not, The True Picture takes a look at what the top or biggest lies spread by media outlets, commentators and certain sections of the political class were in the last year.

The True Picture was also the first to expose several of these lies. In any case, we played our part in exposing these false claims and then presented the evidence to show that these claims were false. Below is out list of the top lies spread in 2017 (these are not necessarily ranked in order of “merit” or importance):

THE GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX STORY

The Claim: When International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released the latest GHI report for 2017, media outlets and several commentators ran stories with headlines like “India slips 3 notches to 100 on Global Hunger Index; trails N Korea, Iraq” (Business Standard) or “India 100th on Global Hunger Index: Rahul Takes a Jibe at Modi” (The Quint). Business Standard said: “Over three-year duration, the country has seen a slide of 45 positions from 55 in 2014”. Social media was also not far off. Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram and Sitaram Yechury were among politicians who criticised the government for this.

The Facts: There were some basic facts most of these reports or tweets missed or deliberately suppressed. Did India slip 45 ranks? In 2014, India was ranked 55 out of 76 countries. But there were 44 nations better than India not even listed. If these 44 countries were included, they would have been above India and India would be ranked 99 in 2014 out of 120 countries. In 2017, IFPRI included 44 more countries. So, 44 nations were added above India, which found itself at 100 in 2017 — 100 out of 119 countries. So, India was effectively 99 out of 120 countries in 2014 and 100 out of 119 in 2017. As TTP had pointed out, in terms of absolute scores, India has improved its position relative to previous rounds. India’s overall score has improved in every round of the survey.

For details, read our original article: Global Hunger Index 2017 Sends Fake Propaganda Index Up

THE BULLET TRAIN STORY

The Claim: On September 14, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe participated in the ground-breaking ceremony of India’s first high-speed train project (HST), or the bullet train project. Even before the ceremony, sections of the media and the commentariat had been propagating the narrative that the bullet train would be exorbitant and that India did not need it. Later, in November, former Railway Minister and former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad exploited the reply to an RTI inquiry stating that no MoU was signed between India and Japan during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September 2017, when he and PM Narendra Modi participated in the ground-breaking ceremony:

Media analysis India

Former PM Manmohan Singh too criticised the bullet train project, reportedly calling it “an exercise in vanity”:

Media analysis India

The Facts: The MoU and MoC on railways between India and Japan were already signed in December 2015 when PM Abe was also in India. There was no question of signing any MoU again in September 2017. This fact was put out on social media and the misinformation busted by a government official before Lalu Prasad’s tweet:

Media analysis India

We can see from the date stamps that Anuj Gupta’s tweet predated Mr Prasad’s by almost a whole day. Despite the bluff being called, the former Railway Minister was still circulating misinformation. Again, below is what Lalu Prasad, then Union Railway Minister, had to say about the Bullet Train:

Media analysis India

We can see that, as Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, in his budget speech in 2009, was clearly looking for Bullet Trains between Delhi and Patna. As for former PM Manmohan Singh, Mr Prasad was the then Railway Minister in his Union Cabinet.

But what was Dr Singh himself doing as PM vis-à-vis the bullet train? The screenshots below should make that clear:

Media analysis India

Manmohan Singh appears to have had a completely different view of the Bullet Train/ HSR when he was PM than the opinion he seems to hold now. Below is the relevant section from the joint statement issued on the bullet train during then PM Manmohan Singh Tokyo visit:

Media analysis India

For details on how certain critics of the bullet train today acted when they were in power at the Centre please read our original article: Calling their Bluff: A Fact Check on Misinformation Being Spread About the Bullet Train. For details about the Bullet Train project itself, please read our article: “What the Bullet Train Brings to India and Where It Plans to Take India”.

THE RAFALE STORY
Media analysis India

The Claim: In November last year, questions were raised, largely by the Congress, about the Rafael deal signed between India and France in September 2016. The Congress claimed that there was a “huge scam” in the deal and that the earlier 2012 proposal for an aircraft deal with Dassault Aviation (which manufactures the Rafale) was better and cheaper although that was never sealed.

The Facts: The True Picture examined the Rafael deal and also made a comparison between the two deals — the one that was never cleared by the previous administration and the new one signed in 2016 by the current administration. Below were our key findings:

We also said the following:

And below is the table we used to lay out the comparison between the new, real deal and the old, non-deal:

As well as what is new in the new Rafale deal:

We also fact-checked some of the remaining critical claims:

For details about the Rafale deal, please read our original articles:
An Examination of the Rafale Case: The Old Non-Deal and the New Deal;
and Rafale: The What and the Why of the New Deal

THE NORTHEAST FLOODS STORY
Media analysis India

The Claim: A string of news reports and political statements had claimed last year that the Centre had ignored the floods in the Northeast and that while Gujarat was given Rs 500 crore, Assam was left in the lurch. Some of these reports were: “PM Modi’s ‘largesse’ for Gujarat floods outrages ‘ignored’ Assam” (Hindustan Times), “Tale of two floods: Assam continues to wave for help while Gujarat gets Rs 500 crore” (India Today), etc. The HT quoted former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi’s tweet that said that PM Modi had visited Gujarat and announced interim relief of Rs 500 crore and ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for flood victims and Rs 50,000 for the injured. The India Today report said: “Injured are entitled to compensation of Rs 50,000, while the kin of deceased will get Rs 2 lakh as relief- but only in Gujarat.”

The Facts: In an interview to The Economic Times (July 16, 2017), Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal clearly said: “Earlier, the families of those who unfortunately lost their lives due to flood needed to wait for years to receive ex gratia payments. Now, ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh is released within 48 hours, mandatorily.”

Sonowal did not mention what the injured would get but, it is clear that the ex gratia relief was not being provided only in Gujarat as the India Today report claimed. Moreover, the ex gratia amount was more than double of what the India Today report claimed the kin of deceased got in Gujarat.

Again, while Gujarat got an announcement of interim flood relief package of Rs 500 crore, Assam too was given with Rs 500 crore via the State Disaster Response Force fund, apart from the earlier Rs 218 crore released by DoNER Ministry.

For details about how the Central government had acted, what funds it had provided and how the relief action unfolded, please read our article: Tackling Floods in the Northeast: The Action as it Unfolded.

Also read our original article: Did Central Govt Ignore The Flood in Northeast?

THE DEMONETISATION STORY

The Claim: After PM Modi’s Independence Day Speech on August 15, 2017, several outlets ran stories claiming that the PM’s claims on how demonetisation helped curb black money or unearthing shell companies were mostly confusing or false. One of the more important stories published was by Scroll.in: “Fact check: What Modi said about demonetisation in his I-Day speech and what the data shows”.

The Facts: The True Picture ran a fact check on the publication’s fact check and exposed how they selectively read the data, or read it wrong, and how in certain cases the Scroll.in story itself gave the lie to the publication’s claims. For instance, Scroll.in claimed that the PM’s statements on black money were “thoroughly confusing, and mostly unattributed”. We had pointed out that the PM was right in saying that Rs 3 lakh crore that had never come into the banking system before has been brought into the system after the demonetisation and that the RBI report that the article mentioned showed that excess deposits that accrued to the banking system due to demonetisation to be in the range of Rs 2.8-4.3 lakh crore.

The article also claimed to be confused about the statement: “More than Rs 1.75 lakh crores deposited in the banks is under the scanner. Black money worth Rs 2 lakh crore had to be deposited in the banks…” We had said: “Technically, it is difficult to see why there could be a problem with a portion of black money deposited – and a very large portion – being under scrutiny as opposed to the remainder of the black money deposited.”

For details, please read our original articles:
Fact Checking Scroll.In’s Fact Check on PM’s Demonetisation Claims
and The Telegraph Does a Scroll.In On PM’s Demonetisation Claims

 

Also read The True Picture’s full takedown of the myths about Demonetisation and the presentation of all the important facts:
Demonetisation: A Historic Success

THE KARNATAKA STORY
Media analysis India

The Claim: End-October, 2017, PM Modi’s remark that Karnataka should be able to match the best in India and lead the states came under attack from certain political quarters and commentators who attempted to present it as a case of the PM being unaware that Karnataka was already more developed than states like Bihar or UP.

Media analysis India

Media analysis India

The Facts: We had said: “Karnataka is undoubtedly one of India’s relatively developed states. And it would be unfortunate for India if the state began to slow down or slip up. While what the PM said did not betray a lack of awareness of Karnataka’s conditions, what he did say indicated that Karnataka is not doing as well as it should. In other words, there is scope for improvement and further development for the state.”

Thereafter, The True Picture ran a thorough fact check sectorally and found the following important facts:

  • 7 states had performed better than Karnataka on NSDP
  • 6 states had been doing better than Karnataka on Per Capita Net State GDP
  • 7 states had performed better than Karnataka, including Uttar Pradesh on Growth of Per Capita Net State Domestic Product
  • Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had all attracted much higher FDI than Karnataka
  • In agriculture, a state like Gujarat was far ahead of Karnataka in terms of comparative yield data
  • On atrocities against SC/STs, Maharashtra and Gujarat largely fared better than Karnataka
  • Karnataka had witnessed more violent communal incidents than Gujarat
  • Farmer and agri-labourer suicides were much higher in Karnataka compared to Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh
  • On Infant Mortality Rate, 12 states were doing better than Karnataka
  • 13 states did better record than Karnataka on full immunisation of children
  • Karnataka was behind 7 states on Maternal Mortality Rate
  • Karnataka was behind 9 states on life expectancy
  • Karnataka fared worse than a state like Gujarat on crimes reported and crime rate

 

For details, please read our original article: The Karnataka Development Controversy

THE GUJARAT MODEL STORY
Media analysis India

The Claim: In the run-up to the Gujarat assembly election of December 2017, several media outlets, commentators and politicians appeared to contest with each other is dissing the so-called Gujarat model of development. While most of these stories selectively picked and deployed data, many of them made downright false claims. The Congress’s Deepender Hooda’s article ‘Gujarat model’ an average product, ‘Gujarat marketing model’ in another orbit was an exercise in this vein.

Hooda’s main claims were the following:

  • On unemployment, Hooda argued that “the rise of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor, and Jignesh Mevani is rooted in the unrest among the unemployed or underemployed youth.”
  • On the economy, he claimed: “On economic parameters, it [Gujarat] performs worse than Haryana, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. On social development indicators, it is way behind Kerala and Tamil Nadu.”

On the whole, however, Hooda did not seem to be able to make indicator-specific points apart from unemployment.

The Facts: We countered Hooda and exposed his incorrect claims with facts and data. For instance, on employment, we showed that Gujarat has the lowest unemployment rate among Indian states as per the data, thereby being India’s top-ranked state in providing employment. We had said: “…Gujarat scores 7 in Urban and 10 in Rural, which puts the per 1,000 unemployment for Gujarat at single digit: 9. If this is compared with Kerala – one of Hooda’s preferred states — we see that Kerala stands at 126 urban and 125 rural, putting the state’s overall figure at 125.”

Since Hooda talked about his home state Haryana as being ahead of Gujarat on many development indicators in 2014, before the change of state government, we showed that states’ unemployment figures, calculated according to the above-mentioned method, were 21 for Haryana and 6 for Gujarat.

On industry and agriculture, we said that Gujarat, with only 4.99% of the national population, accounts for 7.3% of India’s GDP. Gujarat’s 18.4% share of the national industrial output is the largest among Indian states. If we considered FDI inflow, Gujarat was among the top 3 states with Rs 22,610 crore in FDI.

We presented the following facts on agriculture:

The above showed the strong economic growth model of Gujarat. They also demolished Hooda’s claim that Gujarat’s growth story was due to the Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singh. Fact: Manmohan Singh became PM in 2004. Narendra Modi became Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001. In these three years, Gujarat was already growing at high rates. Besides, Manmohan Singh’s second term (2009-14) as PM was mostly a period of economic decline for India. Gujarat’s economy, however, was still fully healthy and growing fast.

For more details, please read our original article: Facts Prove Deepender Hooda is Completely Wrong About “Gujarat Model”

The True Picture, in fact, did several stories busting the false claims on the Gujarat Model, some of these are below:
Gujarat Model & ‘The Wire’: How One Maitreesh Ghatak Article Gives the Lie to Another
A Factcheck on Jayati Ghosh’s Claims About ‘Gujarat Model’
On Gujarat Model: A Response to Christophe Jaffrelot and ‘The Indian Express’

What we discussed above appear to be some of the biggest lies spread by the media and sections of the commentariat and political class in 2017. These cases were widely discussed in the public domain, some of which were exposed/ explained by The True Picture first.

Let us next look at some of the bigger, if not biggest, lies that The True Picture also exposed in 2017:

THE GENERAL PANAG STORY

Media analysis India

Media analysis India

The Claim: On October 8, Lt General H.S. Panag (Retd) created a controversy on body bags regarding the manner in which bodies of 7 Indian soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Arunachal Pradesh were recovered and brought back. Panag went to blame the authorities for not using proper body bags.

The Facts: General Panag’s claims were put in context and he was put in his place by social media users. The dead soldiers were first rescued from terrible conditions on remote terrain. Thus, proper body bags may not have been available at the moment.

Media analysis India

Thereafter, every protocol was observed and full military honour accorded to them.

Media analysis India

THE KHICHDI STORY

Media analysis India

The Claim: With the onset of winter came the rather absurd piece of news that “khichdi” was going to be declared India’s national dish at World Food India 2017.  Multiple media outlets and social media users circulated the news claiming it as fact:

Media analysis India

Media analysis India

The Facts: The effort at World Food India was aimed at cooking the dish to enter it in the Guinness Book of World Records. Over 800 kg Khichdi was prepared on the spot, on November 4, at the World Food India event in a bid to create world record and popularise it as brand India food globally. Perhaps, the media outlets got confused between “Brand India” dish and a “national dish”.

For details, please read our original story: Khichdi is not about to be declared India’s ‘National Dish’

THE YOGI GOVERNMENT EDUCATION BUDGET STORY

Media analysis India

The Claim: A PTI report on July 11, 2017 said that the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh had cut the budgetary provisions for secondary education and higher education compared to that of previous dispensation. The story claimed that there was a significant reduction in provisions of Rs 9,414 crore and Rs 2,469.73 crore in secondary and higher education respectively.

Budget Year 2016-17 2017-18
Secondary Education Rs 9,990 crore Rs 576 crore
Higher Education Rs 2,742 crore Rs 272.77 crore

The Facts: PTI did not look at the whole Budget Estimate documents but only a few parts of it. Not only did they miss figures but they also misquoted them. It made one wonder if it was a deliberate attempt to discredit the newly elected state government. A look at the Budget Estimate 2017-18 document, available in public domain, cleared all doubts:

Secondary Education

Media analysis India

Higher Education

Media analysis India

Clearly, there were no cuts in the budgetary provisions of the Yogi Adityanath government but in fact, it was more than what the previous government had allocated.

For details, please read our original story: Did PTI Deliberately Run False News on Yogi Govt’s Education Budget?

THE AYUSH STORY

Media analysis India

The Claim: In June last year, a fake piece of news had circulated in the mainstream as well as social media that the Ayush Ministry had prescribed a “no meat, no sex, no lust” lifestyle to pregnant women in a booklet. This lie had gone viral on social media and many stories had appeared in the mainstream too upholding the lie. This, in fact, persisted even after the ministry had called out the lie and clarified. An example is the story “Is sex without lust and attachment okay, Minister?

The Facts: The booklet was in circulation through the units of the erstwhile Department of AYUSH and Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy (CCRYN) since 2013, when the current government was not in office.

Page 14 of the booklet talked about avoiding certain types of food like tea, coffee, white flour products, fried and oily items and non-vegetarian food during pregnancy.

Media reports asserted that the booklet put forward the “prescription” that “pregnant women in India” should “say no to sex after conception”. This was far from the truth. The words “no sex” did not feature anywhere in the booklet.

Some of the other facts:

  • CCRYN is an autonomous body under the Ministry of AYUSH
  • The report was published in 2013, under a different government
  • The booklet was not based on the government’s preferences. It contains guidelines for pregnant women based on Yoga & Naturopathy

The publication apparently aimed to take the health benefits of Yoga & Naturopathy to expecting mothers and new mothers in a simple booklet format. It was in any case released under a different administration.

For details, please read our original article: Why the Confusion After Ayush Clarification?

THE TAJ MAHAL STORY

Media analysis India

The Claim: On October 4, 2017, the India Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, Annie Gowen, asked on Twitter whether India was “neglecting” its “iconic Taj Mahal because it was built by Muslims”. She further said that the Taj, the country’s biggest tourism draw, was not allotted any cultural heritage funds in the state budget for the coming year. And the monument was omitted from the state’s official booklet listing all the important projects of the tourism department.

Media analysis India

The Facts: In the context of the then ongoing controversy around the Taj Mahal and the UP government, this tweet was provocative and on a sensitive subject. It was also factually ignorant.

The Taj Mahal, as an ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) monument as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site, falls within the remit of the Central government.

As for the expenditure on the Taj Mahal in the first two full years of the current Central administration, we had presented the data as below:

Also, we find that in 2013-14 (the last year of the previous administration), Rs 957.97 lakh was spent on the Agra Circle. Whereas, under the current administration, Rs 1,404.99 lakh was spent in 2014-15 and Rs 1,270 lakh in 2015-16. The Taj Mahal, of course, is the centrepiece of the Agra circle.

Moreover, after the controversy had erupted over the reported omission of the Taj Mahal from the UP government’s tourism brochure, the state government had reportedly clarified that Rs 156 crore has been set aside for projects concerning the Taj Mahal.

For more details, please read our original article: How Annie Gowen of ‘The Washington Post’ Maligned India By a Malicious Story & Tweet

THE ELPHINSTONE-ARMY STORY

Media analysis India

The Claim:  Some opposition politicians, commentators and even retired military officers had criticised the decision to call in the Indian Army to help rebuild the foot overbridge that had collapsed at Mumbai’s Elphinstone station on September 29, 2017:

Media analysis India

Media analysis India

Media analysis India

The Facts: Militaries building and maintaining or building and handing over critical infrastructure is not unprecedented. In fact, it is seen to be a fairly common practice in many parts of the world – in even some of the biggest developed countries with some of the largest militaries.

For instance, the USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) also maintains and operates 75 hydroelectric facilities that generate 24% of the country’s hydropower and 3% of total electricity. Likewise, in India, during the 2014 flash floods in Jammu & Kashmir, the Army got into the act to restore and repair roads damaged in over a thousand places.

The Indian Army’s role is not confined to combat readiness or keeping vigil at Siachen, or fighting cross-border terrorism. Its role also extends to helping Indians in a much more holistic manner. Constructing and maintaining critical or essential infrastructure certainly counts in this, apart from crises.

For instance, the military rebuilding a collapsed foot overbridge for the 2010 Commonwealth Games was pointed out by social media users. The Elphinstone overbridge collapse was a tragedy in which several lives were lost. Not only was this piece of infrastructure in heavy daily use but its absence would also inconvenience countless people who travel daily on Mumbai’s suburban rail network.

For details, read our original article: What is So Amiss about the Army Building an Overbridge?