Economics & Politics / Political

How Business Standard and BBC had to Retract a Story on Gujarat

How Business Standard and BBC had to Retract a Story on Gujarat.

All thanks to the swift & smart work by Vijay aka @centerofright who keeps his cool despite being called names and abused in the social media…

The Firstpost article on the same is copied below, this just goes on to show that how much the English Media (TV, Newspapers/Magazines) are doing motivated stories/ planting lies for public consumption. Always too eager to target certain people/group of people. Even at the cost of losing their face by using  lies/ wrong data/ manufactured figures, highly biased analysis. Conjuring up facts, sitting at their desk, at the call of their master. They do not even have the decency to apologies when they are caught with their pants down.

The Gujarat growth gaffe: Social media calls bluff

May 3, 2012


by Kartikeya Tanna

Yesterday the nation woke up to several articles belittling the Gujarat growth story. Relying primarily on theBusiness Standard op-ed by AK Bhattacharya placing Gujarat’s average growth rate between 2003-04 and 2011-12 at 6.3%, Rediff published a state-wide comparison by the same author quoting similar data, while Soutik Biswas  in aBBC Asia cynical op-ed popped the question whether, in view of this revelation, the Gujarat story was a “myth” and Modi a “spinmeister”.

This was strange for more reasons than one. Since a few years, the Gujarat story has reached the farthest corners of the world with numerous entities and institutions showering praises on the state’s development record. Therefore, even though the 6.3% rate “puzzled” Bhattacharya, he did not quite bother to double-check. Worse, both columnists ended up making several conclusions and raising severe doubts on how and why Gujarat lagged behind.

This led many intellectuals and commentators to gloat over how Bhattacharya had “punctured” Gujarat’s growth claims. Modi was accused of “peddling” the Gujarat myth. Many independent online forums picked up these articles and continue to host them. And, all of that was based on a serious error of fact. Fact, not inference.

Since a few years, the Gujarat story has reached the farthest corners of the world with numerous entities and institutions showering praises on the state’s development record. AFP

Then as has happened often in the recent past, all hell broke loose on Twitter. Vijay(@centerofright) busted this grossly incorrect assertion by pointing out the data available on the Planning Commission’s website. It so turns out that the 6.3% figure peddled around by many was, in fact, the growth rate of Jharkhand. Gujarat’s average growth rate over the past eight years has been 10.08%. Repeated efforts by Twitterati to point this out to Business StandardRediff and BBC Asiaresulted in corrected versions of the articles being put up on the websites.

Bhattacharya substantially modified the analysis from statements like “the performance of Gujarat in this period is a puzzle” and “how does one explain Gujarat” to “Gujarat’s story is well-known and shows what sustained growth-oriented policies can do to a state’s economic fortunes”. Biswas had a bigger problem. Having chosen a rather direct title in undermining Gujarat’s growth, he had to change the title from “Is Gujarat’s red-hot economy a myth?” to “Gujarat IS a red-hot economy”  stating how he “had also wondered whether there was something amiss with the data on Gujarat in the Business Standard article”.

Neither has deemed it necessary to tender an apology so far. Bhattacharya’s updated article contains a small note towards the end stating that it incorporates “corrected data”. Biswas took shelter behind Bhattacharya’s distorted factual account in the Business Standard.  And it is anybody’s guess what may have happened had the online commentariat not corrected the claims of columnists and academicians.

Some fellow-columnists rushed to the defence of these columnists pardoning their “honest mistake”. However, as @centerofright pointed out, honest mistakes in journalism seem to be happening only with Gujarat. Whether or not this was an honest mistake – I consider it, at best, a reckless disregard of facts – the bias against Gujarat and the temptation to gloat over any negative report on Gujarat and, indirectly, Modi’s well-publicised representations, is writ large in the way several columnists were eager to damn Gujarat’s economy.

A few defenders shifted the goalpost by pointing out how three major states experienced double-digit growth. How Gujarat’s growth and development is different from the other states is a topic for another elaborate analysis.

More important, however, is the power of social media which has, time and again, pointed out glaring errors by reputed columnists belonging to what we know as mainstream media. In this heyday of paid news and irresponsible journalism, the social media has often stood up to this menace presenting raw facts for global consumption and interpretation.

Sadly, however, criticism of the online commentariat has become the recourse for many in the mainstream media unable or unwilling to handle criticism. The obnoxiousness and undue aggression of a few is used to decry the entire medium. Little wonder then that the New Delhi clique that has managed to represent itself as the pioneer of mainstream media ensures that critical evaluation and discussion on significant issues facing the nation is often conducted, with many columnists guilty of serious lapses, at high decibel levels. In the process, factual accuracy ends up being secondary.

While the sheer democratisation brought about by the internet was at its rigorous display yesterday, it would be undermined if seen as a ‘victory’ over mainstream media. One of the greatest classics in our culture – the Mahabharata – was originally titled Jaya. The underlying theme of the epic was to highlight the importance of jaya as opposed tovijayaJaya is spiritual victory, a triumph over the soul, which is a victory without a loser. Vijayaon the other hand, is material victory presupposing a duel and a loser at the end of it.

In due course, online media will find its deserved space in the current affairs discourse without the temptation for vijaya. With the power of the internet in this information age, the online commentariat continues to host a parallel wealth of facts, information and intellect beneath the conspicuous clutter. Truth eventually manages to resurface however much one tries to suppress it. The internet has only helped speed up the dissemination of truth in an astonishing manner.

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