Media

How Indian media tried to link every issue in the world to Demonetisation

Demonetisation may hit fee reimbursement” screamed this front page headline of The Hindu on Nov. 21st . They were alluding to the fee the Telangana state government has to reimburse for all engineering colleges in the state. To save you the pain of reading through the whole report, here is the summary:

  • State government owes more than Rs 2000 crores to engineering colleges from the last 2 years.
  • It has recently released ~Rs 250 crores only.
  • It has promised to release ~Rs 600 crores “soon”.
  • In a totally unrelated topic, the report states that the state government is claiming losses to the tune of ~Rs 2000 crores due to demonetisation.
  • The Hindu is therefore running a story that demonetisation will impact further payments!

The sheer logic behind running this story boggles the mind. This problem has been pending for more than 2 years and amounts were not even released in hay days. In fact, there was the exact same problem back in 2012 too! It looks like the latest fad in town is to blame all teething problems to the demonetisation drive!

Telangana set to lose Rs 2000 crores per month” – screamed the front page headline on November 11, 2016. However, on November 16, 2016, the same newspaper, The Hindu had a front page report that told us that Telangana is losing ~ Rs 1000 -Rs 1250 crores per month.

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So what changed from the 11th to the 16th? Upon reading the headline on 16th, one would assume that the change is because of the cut in expenditure. But a detailed reading of the report tells us that nothing changed from the 11th to 16th!  Both the times there is a reference to the CM talking to the governor once, with “supporting statistics”. It looks like a mere miracle that the losses came down by a whopping 50% in just 5 days, without doing anything! Perhaps we wait for a few more days, and this problem is gone then?

Demonetisation: Severe cash crunch compels citizens to seek psychiatric help”, screamed this headline of First Post. The first case study itself sent me into a tizzy. Let me summarise it for you (all emphasis mine):

  • A student went to a renowned psychiatrist
  • He felt “tormented” because his dad didn’t give him his weekly pocket money of Rs. 1200/-.
  • He claims he cannot drink tea or eat a snack. Neither can he borrow because he has already piled up on debt.

First of all, it beats me why anyone would want to carry high denomination notes to drink tea in canteen. Secondly, if a student who despite getting Rs.1200/- per week has piled up debt in college canteen, then he needs to go see a financial adviser and not a psychiatrist! Thirdly, it does not mention anywhere that the student approached the doctor only because of this *crisis*.

The article goes on to mention another case study, because of the impact of marriage planning. This sounds like a genuine problem, given how anxious we can get during marriage, even in good times! The article then stops giving any more examples and merely talks about “most cases”. To top it all, we also come to know that psychiatrists are thinking that the “fabric of trust” in this country is breaking because of demonetisation!

Modi’s demonetisation of old 1000 and 500 rupee notes, a blunder in every imaginable wayscreamed the headline (headline has been changed later) in Economic Times. I read through the article. It is based entirely on hearsay. Sample these points:

  • Over 90% of the transactions in India are cash transactions,
  • More than 90% of the cash in India is not black money .
  • As per a recent estimate, only 6% of black money is kept in the form of cash.

The “Recent estimate” of 6% was from another news report from Hindustan times, which was interpreting this data from IT raids in the past one year. The 90% has been pulled out of thin air, and random conclusions that link this with what Mao did to sparrows in China are being thrown at the readers!

What do you do when you run out of pictures? Use them again! Take a look at the image below.

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The whatabouttery of the image is baffling too. I can walk into a jewellery shop at 10 am any day and can click a picture of an empty shop! Secondly, the headline on Nov 15 says that “Small traders hit hardest”. How come jewellers are now “small traders”? If buying gold was another way to get rid of black money, isn’t it a good thing that this is being moderated now? But no, the papers won’t tell you that!

Revenge No Development Strategy” – screamed this headline on Times of India. I was desperate to read some articles that talk about alternatives to the current move announced by Prime Minister Modi. This article was mentioned on an MP’s timeline, so I checked it out. After doing some comparisons with countries like Pakistan, Vietnam, North Korea, Zimbabwe etc, the author tells us that “Modi also chose an odd moment to attack corruption, which appeared to be in retreat.” Whoa, retreat? The source of this information is the “rebound” in our rankings from being the 95th most corrupt country to 76th! Nice job, let’s pat ourselves on the back and go back to citing these numbers to the people of the country!

Apart from the privatisation of banks (I still don’t know how this will help control black money, because the author just mentions it as the only good idea and doesn’t discuss further!), we get to read about another possible way.  “There is also a better way to downsize the black economy, which Modi’s government tried but with underwhelming results.” He tells us that Indonesia’s income declaration scheme imposed only a 4% tax on black money, so a lot more was recovered.  Now – the headline makes sense! Don’t think about revenge on those poor black money hoarders! Let’s perhaps molly coddle the black money hoarders into getting them to pay much much less tax than what the salaried class pays!

Apart from the shameful coverage of linking many unfortunate deaths to this demonetisation drive, the media is also trying to whip up passions across a section of the society by writing such contradictory, sometimes meaningless articles in their publications! Nothing better was anyway expected from the English media. As a parting shot, take a look at the image below, with the caption –“Vendors at Musheerabad Fish market in Hyderabad wait for customers”.

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Is it just me, or do you also not see any “vendors” in the picture?

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