Shekhar Gupta’s The Print is often keen on breaking its own records in stupid, clickbaity pieces claiming to be investigative articles. Recently, it published an article titled “Modi govt’s ministers prefer Oxford, Harvard for their children’s education and not IIT, IIM”
The headline makes a sweeping generalisation claiming that ministers in Modi government’s cabinet send their children to study abroad, ditching IITs and IIMs in India. However, there lies a problem in the headline. IITs are for Engineering degrees and IIMs are for management. It is not understood why would students pursuing degrees in law, economics and journalism would go to IITs and IIMs.
The article then reveals the basis upon which it is resting its sweeping generalisation about ‘children of Modi government ministers’. We read that 12, yes, only 12 out of a total of 56 ministers, less than 25% of them, have children who have obtained degrees from abroad.
The article goes ahead to list the names, professions and educational degrees of the children of cabinet ministers. However, another pattern emerges here, most names mentioned have degrees in law, economics and some, like Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s daughter Vangmayi, have degrees in journalism. It is not clear why and how the writer, or the editor, assumed that people who had wanted to pursue careers in these fields would have considered IITs and IIMs as their institutions of choice.
Shekhar Gupta then went a step ahead and shared the article with another dramatic text. Gupta claimed, “While they preach Swadeshi and Hindi mediums for the rest of us, How Modi govt ministers prefer Oxford, Harvard for their children’s education and not IIT, IIM.”
Well, the last we knew, IITs and IIMs had English as their teaching medium, not Hindi, like most of the institutions of higher education in India. And even in a broader sense, while the PM and many of the prominent leaders do emphasize the importance of Hindi, Sanskrit and regional languages, no one has ever heard the government say that people should make their children leave English medium schools, colleges and enrol them in Hindi medium. Even the central government’s Navodaya Vidyalayas and Kendriya Vidyalayas teach primarily in English, with options of Hindi medium available in certain cases and subjects for students who prefer it.
As if the cheap clickbait and gross misrepresentation were not enough, the article seems to have failed in maintaining the correctness of basic details too. Vangmayi Parakala, a journalist working in The Hindu, had called out Shekhar Gupta’s claims with a note. Vangmayi wrote that she had obtained her BA and MA degrees from Indian universities and after working as a journalist in India for a few years, had obtained a degree from Northwestern, one of the world’s most prestigious schools for journalism.
Vangmayi wrote that had Shekhar Gupta’s reporter bothered to check her LinkedIn profile, he would have known that she had done her graduation and post-graduation both from the DU. She added that she had chosen Northwestern for higher education to sharpen her skills as a journalist.
Vangamayi Parakala also reminded Shekhar Gupta that she works in an office just two buildings away from his and drinks ‘chai’ at the same streetside shop as his reporters. She added that her drive to better her professional skills comes from wanting to write in and about India. Vangmayi added that Gupta and his reporter hinging her family’s ‘Swadeshi’ ideals on only one of the three degrees she holds, while ignoring the other two is stretching it. Parakala added that while she understands the pressure of a digital newsroom, she is disappointed.
As said above, The Print does have a habit of attempting to build tall towers of clickbait over very thin, or virtually absent ice. Last year, they had claimed that Indians have become so poor that they had stopped buying underwear. The basis for their claim was a rather vague generalisation which indicated while major underwear brands are still showing growth, the growth levels were not as good as they expected.
The Print has even been accused of inventing quotes and statements on their own and attributing them to people of their choice. Recently they had even invented a quote and attributed it to FM Nirmala Sitharaman herself. They had removed the article after the FM called out the ‘calumny’.