A day after veteran ‘journalist’ Shekhar Gupta’s ‘The Print’ attempted to mislead the readers by misquoting an IIT Professor about India’s response to COVID-19, the publication tried to brazen it out by defending its misreporting of professor’s observations.
On Wednesday, the Print had published an article explaining how India ‘missed’ about 90 infections for every COVID case to propagate that the country bungled up in its response to the pandemic. In an attempt to further their narrative, the Print had misquoted Manindra Agrawal, who is the member of the Department of Science and Technology committee and professor at the Department of Computer Science at IIT Kanpur.
The report by The Print had claimed that India had ‘missed’ 90 infections on every one reported case. However, the report had completely failed to mention that the ‘unreporting’ is because most of these cases were either asymptomatic or showed mild symptoms.
Shekhar Gupta’s Print misreports Professor’s observations
Following the publication of the article by the Print, Professor Agrawal had taken to Twitter to clarify his observation and also point out how the reporter from The Print had misinterpreted his statements. He said he had mentioned that according to their model, only one in 90 cases had been reported and the ‘unreported’ ones are primarily due to being asymptomatic.
He further said that Delhi may have ‘unreported’ 25 cases for every one reported case while the number rises to 300 in the case of UP. He said that the reporter took his words in a different direction and implicated that the Indian system “somehow goofed up by not detecting them” by replacing his words ‘unreported’ with ‘missed cases’.
To highlight this point, I mentioned that, according to our model, only one in 90 cases have been reported. And the unreported ones are primarily due to being asymptomatic. However, this ratio is not uniform across regions. 2/n— Manindra Agrawal (@agrawalmanindra) December 16, 2020
Agarwal revealed that the Print had deliberately changed ‘unreported’ cases, he had mentioned in his interview to mean “missing ones”. According to the professor, the implication being that our system had erred by not detecting these case for various reasons.
Manindra Agarwal, expressing disappointment over the misrepresentation by The Print, said that nowhere in the report, The Print actually conveyed the original point he had made to the reporter that the virus seems to be affecting India less severely than many other countries.
In Delhi it is around 1:25 while in UP/Bihar it climbs up to around 1:300. Unfortunately, the report has spun this in a different direction. The unreported cases become “missing ones”. The implication being that our system has somehow goofed up by not detecting them. 3 /n— Manindra Agrawal (@agrawalmanindra) December 16, 2020
It is important to mention the difference between ‘missed’ cases of reporting and ‘unreported’ cases. The ‘missed’ cases are the ones, which has been not detected/documented by the state deliberately to keep their numbers low. This phenomenon was allegedly observed in states like Kerala, West Bengal where the state government was reportedly documenting a reduced number of cases to depict that they had effectively handled the pandemic in a better way. It is alleged by researchers that Kerala had missed reporting cases to the extent of 43 per cent to hide the deaths.
Contrary to it, ‘unreporting’ of cases meant state’s inability to test or trace the positive cases due to various underlying cases such as asymptomatic nature of the infected persons, lack of infrastructure, etc.
Continuing, the professor further explaining the details pertaining to the survey that was carried out by his team, he said though his team had not done any survey, their results to arrive at the above outcome on ‘unreporting’ of the case was purely based on a mathematical model run on publicly available data.
“Although the model has been predicting the trajectory for the pandemic very well for past 3-4 months, it is still only a model,” he added.
The professor had also said that one aspect of their model has also been verified and its conclusions for pandemic trajectory have been confirmed by actual progression in the cases.
For those interested, we have not done any survey for our results. They are purely based on a mathematical model run on publicly available data. Although the model has been predicting the trajectory for the pandemic very well for past 3-4 months, it is still only a model. 5/n— Manindra Agrawal (@agrawalmanindra) December 16, 2020
Essentially, Prof. Agarwal accused The Print of misinterpreting by giving a spin to his original observation to imply that India had deliberately ‘missed’ reporting cases. However, Prof Agarwal, speaking to the Print had only insisted that the cases could have gone unreported due to various factors.
Print brazens it out, defends misreporting of observation
After the professor pointed out the Print’s dishonesty in reporting his exact observation and its attempts to misreport to suit its narrative, the Print tweeted a clarification on Thursday defending its report. In its tweet, thanking the Professor for his ‘feedback’, the Print went on to brazen it out by saying that their report had made a distinction between ‘reported cases’ and ‘undiagnosed infections’.
The Print also claimed that the report did not talk about ‘missed cases’ but ‘missed infections’. It also added that the report quoted the professor who had said India was among countries less affected.
.@agrawalmanindra, tks for your feedback. The report makes distinction between reported cases & undiagnosed infections. It doesn’t talk about missed cases but missed infections. It quotes you saying India’s among countries less affected. Also says this is a model & not a survey.— ThePrintIndia (@ThePrintIndia) December 17, 2020
However, The Print did not clarify why it altered Agarwal’s observations by replacing ‘unreported’ cases to ‘missed’ cases. The Print’s claims that it had made a distinction between ‘reported cases’ and ‘undiagnosed infections’ also falls flat that there has been no such clarification in the original report.
Responding to the tweet put out by The Print, Prof Agarwal took a dig at the publication for defending their misreporting. He also added that all the responses put out by The Print was similar to their report and did not mean anything new. He also pointed out how The Print had altered its report to add a quote only after he had called the reporter up and complained about the article.
You missed stating that the article is in English, not German. 😂 All your responses are at the same level except the third point. And my quote was inserted by the journalist *after* I called her up and complained about the article. 🤦♂️— Manindra Agrawal (@agrawalmanindra) December 17, 2020
After Professor had voiced his disappointment over the misreporting his observation, The Print had silently edited to add his quote at the fag end of the report, he stated.