Friday, October 6, 2017

This senior journalist from The Hindu hates facts, data, feedback, and Twitter

The following article was written for OpIndia. Pasting it here for reference:

Ever since Narendra Modi took oath as the Prime Minister of India, the journalism landscape has gone through a massive change in the country. Somehow, the fine line between journalists and propagandists seem to have disappeared.
News, became a thing of the past, and opinions became the prime business of five-star journalists. Feedback got redefined as trolling and fact checking became a cumbersome task that just stood in the way of a good narrative.
Let me share an experience of mine, which has helped me conclude the above.
Back in March 2015, I was having a discussion with the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu on how the false narrative of “church attacks” was being peddled. In the course of the discussion, he had this to tell me:
Mr. Srinivas Ramani saying he was involved in the ‘business of serious journalism’ inspired many giggles, and like his journalism, couldn’t be substantiated with facts.
It was a simple discussion where I  was pointing out to him an article by Ms. Rupa Subramanya that called out the fake noise about the church attacks. Failing to provide counter facts, Mr. Ramani, just as any other journalist caught on the wrong foot, defended his lies by saying I have blinkers on and accusing me of being a troll.
In his now deleted tweet from August 2015, Srinivasan Ramani claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to bring back black money in 100 days. I asked him to provide proof for the same and he, just like any other journalist caught on the wrong foot, changed tracks completely –
His response to me was drastically different from his initial assertion of PM Modi promising to bring back black money in 100 days! With his narrative disproved, he went on to accuse me of nitpicking; asked me to be objective; called me a bhakt; told me he is a busy man – basically, tried every trick in the book to avoid answering the queries I was posing!
He has since blocked me on twitter thus depriving me of the opportunity to read his many pearls of wisdom. However, on the evening of October 4th, he revealed his abusive self yet again, snapshots of which appeared on my Twitter timeline. In response to Prime Minister Modi’s comment that the RBI has projected a GDP growth on 7.7% in the coming quarters, he had this to say:
“They lowered projections to 6.7% in FY18, Mr PM. Follow the right people instead of buffoons & bigots on your TL & you will get right info.”
The flavor of the season is to raise fingers at the followers of PM Modi and the ones he follows, irrespective of the context. Nothing else can explain the abusive tweet above. But that is not the only thing that we need to talk about in that tweet.
Upon a cursory reading of his tweet, one would be shocked that the Prime Minister could get such basic details wrong. I mean, how can the PM be off by a whopping 1%? Thanks to Social Media ‘trolls’, we come to know that the RBI had released this dataon the same day:
Upon closer inspection, one realizes that by Q4, RBI projected the growth to be 7.7%. The Prime Minister in his speech had clearly mentioned that RBI projected a 7.7% growth in the “coming quarters”. When this anomaly was pointed out, Srinivasan Ramani had an awesome response, as below:
  • Q4 is 3 Qs away and not coming quarter.
  • RBI overall projection for coming quarter is 6.7%.

The PM mentioned coming quarters (plural). Srinivasan Ramani heard it in singular form – as coming quarter, and therefore thought he could call those commoners whom PM Modi follows, as abusive. He reiterates that the PM spoke about “coming quarter” while the PM clearly mentioned “coming quarters”.
He then proceeded to tell us that RBI overall projection for “coming quarter” is 6.7%. Let’s look back at the table. Coming quarter is “Q2”. The projection for that is 6.4%. One would wonder why Mr. Srinivasan Ramani was having such difficulty in understanding basic numbers.
Users were continuing to point out his error, but he didn’t want to give up. So he came up with another gem:
Sorry. I disagree. Downward revision is the key for next FY..And you can’t cherry pick q4. EOD
“You can’t cherry pick” – I think Mr. Ramani wants The Prime Minister has to take permission from ‘intellectuals’ like Srinivasan Ramani before talking about data, which he failed to comprehend.
There is another key point in Srinivasan Ramani’s arguments. He keeps saying there is a downward revision for “FY18”, & “Next FY”.
Let’s take a look at RBI’s table again:
All projections are for the financial year 2017-2018.  That is “this FY” and not the “next FY” that Srinivasan is talking about. He also says there is a “downward revision” for “next FY”.  “Next FY” would mean 2018-2019! Clearly, for someone who is obsessed with data, this is not some minor confusion! The GDP in 2016-2017 says 6.6%. The projected growth for the entire 2017-2018 is 6.7%.  How exactly is this a “downward revision”?
Or is it because RBI projected another number at the beginning of the current Financial Year, and has revised it downwards? RBI has projected a 7.3% growth at the beginning of this year, and has now revised it to 6.7% . The downward revision is because of the poor growth in Q1, that has already passed us! So why the new concern about “downward revision” now?
Also, Srinivasan Ramani tells us that we should not be concerned with Quarterly growth, and only about the yearly growth. If so, as Deputy National Editor of his newspaper, can he ensure that not too much of space is given to quarterly growth figures? Can he ensure they don’t write any more editorials regarding the Quarterly growth?
The next pearl of wisdom is as follows:
Guess what? The Prime Minister has acknowledged the situation and said they are working towards reversing this trend, in the very same speech. He also mentioned his request to the GST council to solve all issues people have faced while filing GST. But looks like Mr. Srinivasan Ramani is not interested facts at all.
It is indeed astounding that a person with such scant regard for facts is the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu. A journalist who resorts to name calling at the slightest hint of a debate is a highly placed employee of a newspaper that has nearly 10 lakh circulation.

Don’t the readers who pay up for The Hindu deserve to be told the full truth, rather than these half baked ones? One wonders what the readers outside of the social media space are being fed.

Hit Job on Ajit Doval – More Hype than Fact

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

The following tweet by Hartosh Singh Bal landed up on my timeline a couple of days back.
I had to read it twice to believe he thinks Ajit Doval is more hype than fact. But then I also realized this is Hartosh Singh Bal and wasn’t surprised anymore. I went on to click on the Caravan article he had plugged, and have been tempted to write this article.
Caravan is known for its long form journalism. Ajit Doval was their cover story in their latest edition and they have published a whopping 18,241 word article on him. Eighteen Thousand words! Don’t worry, this article is not going to be that long;). After about 1000 words, the first conclusion has been arrived at.
The NSA’s record so far has been lacklustre.” The first 1000 words also did not tell us anything about why the folks at Caravan think Ajit Doval’s record as NSA has been “lacklustre”. But the premise has been set for the next 17,000 words.
The situation in Kashmir is now more volatile than it has been in decades, with militancy once again on the rise.”. That’s an awesome way of summarizing the situation in Kashmir! Nearly 150 militants have been killed, including some high-profile ones. Only our media can see this issue as a “rise in militancy”. And talking about this being “more volatile than decades”, I would simply like to draw Caravan’s attention to the situation in 2010 when there were large scale “Anti-India” protests in the valley, and every day we read headlines of ordinary people getting killed. Don’t believe me, here’s a blog from 2010, and a media image from 2010 asking India to “Go back”.  2010 to 2017 is not even a decade, leave alone “decades”! 
Doval’s political connections have contributed heavily to his career. During his IB years, he had close links to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.” Now you see, Ajit Doval doesn’t seem to have any talent but for his exceptional political connections in the BJP and the RSS. That is why he won the Kirti Chakra in 1988 when BJP was nowhere close to power, and was appointed the head of the IB in 2005 when UPA was in power!  Anyways we digress from the main agenda by stating facts, so let’s move on. After establishing that Doval is a product of the political system, we are now taken into the main article (a full 1200 words later!).
Studying how Doval sees the Indian state lays bare how the country’s present rulers and their supporters do too.” I am shocked beyond belief that the author did not include the names of people who are followed by Prime Minister Modi on twitter! I mean, that’s the flavor of the season, so how come Caravan missed mentioning them?!
“LITTLE IS KNOWN about Doval’s early years. He was born in 1945, into a Brahmin family in a village called Ghiri, in the hills of what is now Uttarakhand.” Even though “little is known about Doval’s early years, it is very important for us to know that he was born into a Brahmin family. Because this then establishes his closeness to the BJP and the RSS, and voila – we know why Ajit Doval is famous! Later in the article, one of Doval’s speech is reproduced where he says that though he is from a Brahmin family, his food habits have varied according to the postings he has had!
We are very quickly told that his father was in the army, and Doval joined the IPS in 1968, controlled the “infamous riots” in the town of Thalassery in 1971 and joined the IB in 1972. Controlling riots, of course, wouldn’t count as a significant achievement in any police officer’s career.
Doval’s career in the IB coincided with several of independent India’s major internal security crises. He left his impress on many of them, even if not as deeply as popular accounts might suggest.”
We must learn the art of praising and condescending at the same time, from folks at the Caravan. “Not as deeply as popular accounts” sounds more like the author is jealous than analytical. The article then goes on to discuss about Ajit Doval’s key roles in “several of independent India’s major internal security crises”. Beginning from his role in countering insurgency in Mizoram to his role in Punjab, Kashmir to his role in negotiating with Taliban during the 1999 hijack till his rise as the Director of I&B. Nearly 6000 words have been spent on this – timelines of various events with quotes of various officers he has worked with, journalists and even L.K.Advani have been used to explain to us the depth of the exemplary work that Doval has done for this country, from 1972 to 2005. And yet we have been told at the beginning of the article that “Doval’s political connections have contributed heavily to his career” !
DOVAL WAS ANYTHING but quiet in retirement.” We are told that according to a “source”, the then NSA, M.K.Narayanan was not keen on having Doval as Deputy NSA and Doval never “forgived” MKN for that. The Caravan tells us – “For instance, after a series of blasts on Mumbai commuter trains in July 2006, the weekend edition of a leading English-language daily carried a story blaming Narayanan. It quoted an unnamed “retired intelligence chief.” So there were a spate of terror attacks in the country. A newspaper carried out a report criticizing the National Security Adviser, and Caravan sees a motive behind it?
Frozen out by the Congress, Doval turned again to his old patrons in the BJP. Doval chose to position himself behind the rising star, Narendra Modi.” This is because Narendra Modi had invited him to setup a Raksha Shakti university in Gujarat. That’s it. And then we are treated to a 2500 word section on his days while leading the Vivekananda International Foundation. Excerpts of his views on many issues, ranging from reservations to Pakistan; repeal of POTA to “invasion of illegal immigrants” – have been pasted to tell us that “Many of Doval’s public statements echo the draconian majoritarianism of the BJP and the RSS”. Wow – “draconian majoritarianism“ eh? Use fancy words so that that the rhetoric gains more value. After this ~2500 word treatise, the Caravan thankfully moves to his current role as India’s NSA
A senior journalist covering the prime minister’s office told me, “When Doval is with the PM, nobody can enter. Not even the principal secretary, Nripendra Misra. Not even a call can be transferred.” Ah, we have the journalists at play now! I find this statement “duh” at so many levels! By the way, we also had a news report that said when the PM is meeting MPs in the Parliament house, no phone calls are transferred. Does that make them both equals? We are also told that Ajit Doval got a secret intelligence report saying Rohith Vemula was not a dalit. There was a court case going on regarding Rohith Vemula’s caste, so there is nothing secret about it. Anyways, too much has been said and written about Rohith Vemula, so let’s move on. We are then treated to more views and actions of Ajit Doval as the NSA – that include his contributions towards easing the Doklam crisis; his “failure” at Pathankot operations; his meeting with Mamta Banerjee; his speech to the budding IPS officers at their academy etc. At places, the tone and tenor of these paragraphs sound as if we are talking about an enemy and not our NSA!
Doval, Rammohan said, “is a brilliant officer but he is behaving like a sycophant to the BJP.” This might be his legacy.” The Rammohan who is being quote here is a former head of BSF. Based on his quote, the Caravan has ended their 18000+ word article telling us that Ajit Doval’s legacy might be that he was a sycophant to the BJP!
Many such drastic conclusions that the article has arrived at, simply astounds me. Mr. Doval’s outstanding contributions to his country (as detailed in the very same article) have been agnostic to whoever was in power – and neither are his views so extreme that it warrants such strong and misleading choice of words. Ajit Doval seems to have massively frustrated the liberal gang, and therefore this hit job against him. If as Hartosh said, Ajit Doval is more hype than fact - then I am at a loss of words to describe what Hartosh does day in and day out!

Sushma Swaraj’s address at the UN impressed everyone except a few journalists and Pakistan

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2017 has received widespread appreciation – for the clarity of thought and message. She has called upon the world leaders to not distinguish between evil and wondered if the world cannot fight against the common enemy of terrorism in one voice, then what exactly is the purpose of war on terror? She had also given a stinging reality check to Pakistan – whilst India progressed by producing engineers and doctors, Pakistan produced terrorists; whilst India established IITs, IIMs, AIIMS etc, Pakistan established LeT, JuD etc; whilst India is fighting poverty, Pakistan is busy fighting India!
Even before Pakistan could react to this stinging rebuttal, sections of the English media in India started to react. First of the block was Rajdeep Sardesai with this:
Without mentioning Pakistan? Needless to say, the biggest problem facing the world today is terrorism. Needless to say, Pakistan is a hotbed of terrorism. How does a senior journalist not want India to bring the world’s attention to Pakistan’s breeding of terrorists? How can a “G20 strong nation” not wage a fight on all fronts, against the menace of terrorism?
Next, why the rejoinder about what China will do? Is that the only measure of success in our fight against the terrorism that Pakistan perpetrates in our country?
Feeling left behind, Shekhar Gupta tweeted this:
Quite obviously, Sushma Swaraj was not referring to the current state of the IITs and IIMs. Using such an important speech that gave out such a strong message, to replug an article on his site, speaks volumes about how eager they are to rush to the rescue of the Pakistan media! The lightning speed with which these folks have reacted will put even the Pakistan journalists to shame!
However, in my opinion, the icing on the cake is how The Hindu covered the speeches of Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s reply to her. Below is the picture of The Hindu’s front page on Sunday, September 24th.

It is perhaps understandable that The Hindu thought the “longest sari” story will grab more eyeballs that Sushma Swaraj’s tweet. Now, let’s check their front page on the morning of Monday, September 25th
In summary, the graphic below captures all points:
The reply from Pakistan gets front page banner headline, while the keynote speech by our External Affairs minister somehow isn’t that important for them! This open espousing of the Pakistani cause is getting murkier by the day.
The next image is courtesy fellow tweeter, “coolfunnytshirt”.
Sanjiv Bhatt needs no introduction. Prerna Bakshi, in her twitter bio, tells us that she is a columnist with a bunch of publications like The Hindu and The Wire. Little wonder then that these lowly views of India vis-à-vis Pakistan exist in their minds!
Pakistan’s representative at the UN also used some of the news from Indian outlets to make a case on “terrorism” in India. The Indian media has also made it look like the stone pelters got a raw deal because of the use of pellet guns on them! Pakistan easily latched onto this, and even tried to make a case at the UN. Quite obviously, they have failed miserably.

Why is the media so desperate to impose Rahul Gandhi’s incoherent thoughts on us?

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

On August 25, 2017, the office of Rahul Gandhi lets us know that Rahul Gandhi is going to Oslo, at the invitation of the Norwegian foreign ministry:
On the invitation of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be travelling to Oslo for a few days. Looking forward to meeting and exchanging ideas with political and business leaders & research institutions.
The next tweet about the Norway trip came only on August 30th. And in the intervening 5 days, only 4 tweets came, 2 of which were on August 25th itself. The original message did not tell us when will he be leaving, but given the near zero activity on the twitter account, it will be fair to assume he left on August 25th itself. So we have no idea if he was merely holidaying somewhere in Norway itself!
On August 30th, we get the following message:
And very strangely on August 31st,  we get the following message:
Why is it strange? Many twitter users instantly pointed out that it is impossible for anyone to grow such a beard in one day! The pictures tweeted out on September 1st were again with a clean shaven face! Very clearly, they were not tweeted out in the same sequence as the actual events! We are not even sure about the actual dates on which the visit took place and these have yet again exposed the callous nature of Rahul Gandhi’s politics.
However, the Norway trip has also given rise to a new trend – to mask a holiday into an official trip! Rahul Gandhi has drawn flak for taking too many vacations. And to circumvent that argument, he seems to have come up with this ingenious plan! What else explains a mere 4 meetings in Norway, for a full 10 day trip? (He was next seen in public on the 4th of September).
The bravado of Rahul Gandhi is that he hasn’t limited this ingenious plan to Norway. Almost immediately, this same logic was extended to a tour of the United States! First, there were these news leaks that he is going to the US to talk about Artificial Intelligence. After a few days, we are told by Sam Pitroda that this news is false. And in these few days, this news became the hot topic for multiple memes.
On September 12, he spoke at the University of Berkeley. And then the next tweet about a program in the US was on September 19th. So was the intervening period between 12th and 19th, an extended vacation? A “discussion” with students of Princeton on 20th, and a speech somewhere near the Times Square on 21st completed the program. So for 10 full days, we are treated to just 4-5 public appearances, most of them towards the end of the tour! Is this disguising of a vacation as an official trip, going to be the norm going forward?
Let us also discuss the content of his speeches, for which the English media is going gaga (yet again!). Don’t believe me? Here is NDTV (yet again!) with a dedicated program:
And then we had Sadanand Dhume tell us that Rahul Gandhi came about as “intelligent and well informed”. Well informed? Because Rahul Gandhi said Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast, thereby exhibiting his knowledge that he is Amitabh Bachchan’s son? Or because Rahul Gandhi spoke about “Original Congress” being a NRI movement? Or because he told us that “30,000 youngsters enter job market everyday”?
Intelligent? Because Rahul Gandhi analyzed that “We aren’t spending enough on healthcare and education”? Or because he enlightens us with “If India has to produce millions of jobs it has to be done by empowering small & medium businesses and entrepreneurs”? Or because he talked about centralization of power – “The problem everywhere in India is concentration of power. Good governance is about resisting centralization of power”. Or because he claimed that Congress could not provide jobs and given an opportunity again he doesn’t know how to solve that problem?
But then this is not the first time he is talking about these topics! He spoke about these in 20132014 etc. He has been constantly speaking about the “closed systems” his party had created and about the “corruption” that his party has ensured engulfs the entire country! This is also not the first timethe English media went gaga over him. Why is the media so desperate to impose Rahul Gandhi’s incoherent thoughts on us? What explains this obsession to search for meaningful thoughts in his speeches?