On Saturday, Indian Today Managing Editor Rahul Kanwal continued his obsession with flawed data as he came up with another infographic to show which states were most ‘aggressive’ when it came to coronavirus testing.
The infographic posted by India Today’s controversial Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) stated that Delhi had conducted more number of tests compared to any other states in the country. Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan followed Delhi in carrying out tests while West Bengal stood at the last position in carrying out aggressive testing.
Which states are most aggressive when it comes to testing for #Covid19 Figures are on a test per million basis as claimed by state governments. Delhi is on top. West Bengal and Bihar need to ramp up testing. https://t.co/13zVSCNRk0@IndiaToday Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) report pic.twitter.com/GEkIUetNtT— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) April 25, 2020
According to India Today’s DIU, Delhi carried out 1513 tests per one million population while Andhra Pradesh carried out 915. Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal, which has been receiving a lot of criticism for its way of handling the coronavirus cases, tested only 82 people per one million population.
Although the numbers are correct, as they have been provided by the states themselves, it is misleading to compare them. The reason for the same is, most tests in India are being done on the basis of symptoms and known contacts. Means, mostly those persons are being tested who have shown symptoms of Coronavirus, or who had come to contact of Coronavirus patients or high-risk groups like Tablighi Jamaat.
Further, the ‘aggressive’ testing in Delhi also resulted from the fact that more number of cases were detected, especially after Tablighi Jamaat positive cases began to emerge resulting in more screening tests rather than pre-emptive tests in Delhi. After the Tablighi Jamaat event was over in mid-March, many members stayed back in Delhi, which had resulted in huge spike in the numbers. Therefore, Delhi has tested more because it had more Coronavirus suspect cases. It is not that Delhi randomly tested more people per million and found positive cases, but it is the other way around, as the city had a high number of suspects who needed to be tested.
Secondly, Delhi is a small city-state, while others are large states with vast rural areas. Till now, the Coronavirus infection has been concentrated in urban areas, which can be seen in the high number of cases in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad etc. Therefore, compared to states, the cities have a much higher rate of Coronavirus testing.
Vijay Nehra, the Commissioner of Amdavad Municipal Corporation, responded the India Today’s DIU to point out the misleading data. According to Nehra, Ahmedabad city alone had conducted 3250 tests per million, which is more than the Delhi numbers.
Nehra’s contention is that the entire process of classification of states along with the national capital was itself flawed. The logical comparison of data should have been between major cities across the country rather than states as the latter comprises much more population than cities such as Delhi.
The relatively large population of states will expectedly throw up fewer numbers when compared to Delhi as it is much easier to test in the national capital as against the hinterlands of the states. While in other states, the virus has not spread much to the rural areas, so there is no need to test on these places, which brings down the per million test number for Coronavirus testing.
The most embarrassing moment in this matter, however, was not for Rahul Kanwal, but for another journalist – Sheela Bhatt. Sheela Bhatt, who is the treasurer of controversial Editors’ Guild of India, took to Twitter to display her ignorance and inability to comprehend the basic data.
Reacting to Nehra’s response to Rahul Kanwal, Bhatt asked that how can testing data of Ahmedabad be higher than Gujarat leaving netizens at a shock to see the blatant stupidity of the journalist. According to Bhatt, the Coronavirus testing numbers for Ahmedabad cannot be higher than Gujarat.
Thanks. But it can’t be more than Gujarat. No?— Sheela Bhatt (@sheela2010) April 25, 2020
Which figure is correct?@rahulkanwal
Sheela Bhatt perhaps thought 3250 tests per million meant it was the total number of positive cases, which would automatically mean that it had more than entire Gujarat state as the average testing ratio per million is at 615.
However, netizens were quick to react to the ignorance of the journalist and asked how could someone be a journalist with such a low-level understanding of data.
Netizens explained how the data can be higher for Ahmedabad compared to Gujarat as a whole. The testing rate is the ratio of test performed per million across the concerned region and Ahmedabad is testing more, leading to higher numbers.
India Today’s complex relationship with data
India Today seems to be having has a tough relationship with the truth and facts lately. Just a few days back, the network was caught peddling fake data pertaining to Telangana not having an adequate number of PPEs. Telangana Minister KT Ramarao had schooled Rahul Kanwal then by citing official data to prove that the data published by India Today was incorrect.
Similarly, Rahul Kanwal was also exposed by several social media users after the journalist was caught peddling fake data to claim India Today was the most-watched channel in the country. The netizens had published BARC data and had tagged Rahul Kanwal to expose his false claims, leaving the journalist further humiliated.