Fact-Checking In 2018: The 10 Biggest Lies Of The Year
Mumbai: From the government making inflated claims about its achievements to political leaders denying that communal riots took place during their rule, from legislators citing growing Muslim population as a threat to a flawed definition of ‘forest cover’, 2018 has seen several lies busted.
FactChecker is India’s first dedicated fact-checking initiative, set up in 2013 to scrutinise for veracity and context statements made by individuals in public life. FactChecker is also India’s first such initiative to be a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles.
Here is a quick round-up of the 10 biggest lies we busted this year:
“Since Independence to 2014, over 67 years, there were 65 airports. i.e. an average of one airport per year whereas for the past four years, on average, nine airports have been built per year,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on September 24, 2018, at the inauguration of Sikkim’s first airport in Pakyong. Only seven airports were made operational over the last four years, between 2014 and 2018. That makes about two airports every year.
“The saving due to Aadhaar and direct benefit transfer is Rs 90,000 crore per year. Rs 90,000 crore per year means four schemes like Ayushman Bharat (National Health Protection Scheme) can be implemented," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on November 2, 2018.
His claim was false because government data show Rs 90,000 crore was saved cumulatively till March 2018, and not every year.
“The government’s estimates of savings do not stand up to scrutiny, and whatever is termed as savings is often the result of a denial of legal entitlements,” Reetika Khera, an economist at IIM-Ahmedabad, wrote in December 2017 in the Economic & Political Weekly.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, in a televised interview on February 19, 2018, talked about his government’s performance over the preceding 10 months. “In the last 10 months, Uttar Pradesh government has disbursed over Rs 80,000 crore to farmers via direct benefit transfer,” Adityanath said.
The UP government gave Rs 14,540 crore in 2017-18 as direct benefit transfers (DBT) through 682.5 million transactions, according to the government’s DBT dashboard as accessed on February 21, 2018.
“100 smart cities are being developed at an expenditure of over Rs 2 lakh crore,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government completed four years in office at the Centre.
In fact, the union cabinet had approved less than a quarter of the funds (Rs 48,000 crore) at the launch of the mission in 2015, and till March 2018, only 21% had been disbursed and 1.8% utilised. This amounts to 0.09% of central funds used from the government’s projected budget of Rs 2 lakh crore.
“Number one in rape, number one in farmer suicide, number one in unemployment,” the president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress, Kamal Nath, had said in a television interview in a comment on discontent among the state’s electorate.
Madhya Pradesh had India’s highest number of rape cases, but in terms of crime rate--cases of rape per 100,000 women--the state ranked the fifth highest.
In 2015-16, Madhya Pradesh had an unemployment rate of 4.3%, lower than the national average of 5%. In all, 23 states/union territories had higher unemployment rates than Madhya Pradesh, while only eight states and four union territories performed better.
In 2016, Madhya Pradesh had 1,321 farmer suicides, the third highest number in the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state in December 2003. After 2004, the state never reported the most farmer suicides in the country.
“After our government was formed in Gujarat, not even a single riot took place. In Madhya Pradesh not a single riot occurred, in Chhattisgarh not a single riot occurred, and in Uttar Pradesh, after our government was formed, riots have stopped,” claimed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah.
Gujarat reported 35,568 riots between 1998 and 2016, including the 2002 riots, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. While Madhya Pradesh saw 32,050 riots between 2003 and 2016, when the party was in power, Chhattisgarh saw 12,265 during the same period and under BJP rule. Uttar Pradesh reported 195 communal riots in 2017, 10 months after the BJP formed the government, Lok Sabha data show.
“The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain specific data with respect to lynching incidents in the country,” the union minister of state for home affairs, Hansraj Ahir, told the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) on July 18, 2018.
Between 2014 and March 3, 2018, 45 persons were killed in 40 cases of mob lynching across nine states, and at least 217 persons had been arrested, data compiled by the home ministry show.
In contrast, during the same period, FactChecker’s two databases on mob violence--due to child-lifting rumours and bovine-related religious intolerance--recorded 80 cases where attackers outnumbered the victims. Forty-one deaths were reported in such lynchings. This is without counting other instances of mob violence related to issues such as caste and moral policing.
“We must know and acknowledge and appreciate and enjoy one thing...that in the last four years there have been no bomb blasts in the country… Whatever is happening is only in the border area and unfortunately in Kashmir,” Jaggi Vasudev, founder of Isha Foundation, was reported as saying in DNA on September 16, 2018.
His claim is false. Hundreds of bombings--more than 400 in 2016 alone, according to government data--were reported nationwide over the four years to 2018.
As two elected representatives of the BJP, including a union minister, cited increasing Muslim population as a threat, the facts are: Muslim mothers have three children on average, while Hindus have two, but fertility rates are falling and Muslim population growth is at a 20-year low.
No more than 18.4% of Indians will be Muslim by 2050, from 14.4% in 2011, and after 32 years, three in four Indians (75%) will be Hindu, according to a FactChecker analysis of various sources. Fertility rates among Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are lower than those among Hindus and Muslims.
ver two years to 2017, India’s forest cover increased by 6,778 sq km or 1%--about the size of Sikkim--according to a government report. India is among the top 10 countries in terms of forest area, the government has claimed.
Forest experts said the official definition of ‘forest cover’ is flawed: it includes forests converted to commercial plantations, as well as degraded and fragmented forests, and that the health of these forests is gauged by satellite imagery of inadequate resolution. The chief of the Forest Survey of India agreed, but said improving this resolution would take five to eight years.
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