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Modi’s Long Relationship With Fake News

Take a look at 8 instances of fake news on, about and from the Prime Minister himself

The Information and Broadcasting ministry’s controversial order on punishing journalists for disseminating fake news was scrapped on Tuesday following widespread criticism. “PM has directed that the press release regarding fake news be withdrawn and the matter should only be addressed by the Press Council of India,” an official statement said amid protests from the media against the Monday night order which was also criticized by opposition parties. While the press fraternity celebrates a small but important battle to maintain its freedom,

1. Photoshop, a natural disaster

During the Chennai floods of 2015, the Press Information Bureau, the official agency for dissemination of all information and updates related to the government, faced a lot of flak for Photoshopping an image of a flood-hit area on a picture of the PM making an aerial survey from a helicopter. With people immediately pointing to the brazenness of the act, the I&B ministry clarified: “Out of the seven pictures released, one picture used the technique of merging two pictures.”

“This is being referred to as ‘Photoshopping’ in sections of media”, the ministry further said and added that “this happened due to error of judgment and the picture was subsequently deleted”. The ministry was forced to apologize and said that the Press Information Bureau (PIB) “regrets” the release of the picture.

2. WikiTricks

A month ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP supporters on social media circulated images of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange endorsing Modi in a quote that said: “America is scared of Narendra Modi as America knows Modi is incorruptible.” But WikiLeaks cleared its stand on the claim soon enough, saying Assange had never said the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate was ‘incorruptible’.

3. BJP’s 6 billion voters

In a major faux pas, while addressing a gathering of leaders at the World Economic Forum’s plenary session in January this year, Prime Minister Modi quoted the number of voters in India to be 600 crores (six billion). “In 2014, after three decades, 600 crore Indian voters for the first time gave complete majority to a political party to form a government at the Centre,” Modi said during his address. India’s population is 1.3 billion and, thanks to the gods, not 6 billion.

4. Real Mann Ki Baat ‘revolutionary’ won’t stand up

The book on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio addresses — ‘Mann Ki Baat: A Social Revolution on Radio’ – was compiled last year and it was said to have been authored by Rajesh Jain, a former aide of the Prime Minister. Only, it was not. So on the day the government was forced to withdraw the controversial fake news order, NDTV’s managing editor Sreenivasan Jain tweeted about how former Union Minister and BJP leader Arun Shourie had told him that Jain had had nothing to do with the book. Hinting that this could be a “fresh fake news scandal for government”, Sreenivasan tweeted: “Book’s author shown as former Modi aide Rajesh Jain. But Shourie says (Rajesh) Jain told him he never wrote the book! Says he was forced to fly in and claim authorship.”

5. The Diwali vs Eid polarisation of ‘power’

In an election rally in UP in 2017, Narendra Modi claimed that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party government had supplied more electricity on Eid than on Diwali. It was later revealed, by the electric supply department, that while 13,500 MW supplied on Eid 2016, the supply on Diwali (28 Oct to Nov 1, 2016) was way higher, 15,400 MW per day with no power cuts.

6. Direct Benefit credit transfer

In another major fact botch-up attempt, the Modi government said it was the one that had started the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme. BJP’s official Twitter handle claimed, “My govt has saved Rs. 57,000 crore of public money from middlemen through DBT. This is one of the reasons corrupt parties hate me: PM Modi.” Soon a press release from the PIB during the UPA government’s union budget showed that the scheme was in fact laid down during the UPA government’s tenure.

7. ‘Kerala is Somalia’ gaffe

In 2016, while addressing a political rally, Modi was quoted as saying “Infant mortality rate among the scheduled tribe community in Kerala is worse than Somalia”. Somalia has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition and infant mortality in the world, while Kerala has lowest infant mortality rates in India. The Prime Minister’s statement, not surprisingly, became a subject of mockery throughout the country.

8. Vajpayee first Metro passenger of India. Not

While inaugurating the Delhi Metro’s Magenta line in December 2017, Prime Minister Modi said: “It is a matter of pride for us that on December 24, 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became a passenger in the country’s first metro.” India’s first metro, of course, started in Kolkata in 1972. Its foundation station was laid by then PM Indira Gandhi. Delhi metro’s construction began in 1998, and the metro was operationalised on 24 December 2002 when then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the Red line of the metro from Shahdara to Tis Hazari.

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