It is often said that one should never let a crisis go to waste. With the COVID-19 pandemic and a gush of the second wave in India, the media and the opposition parties are almost having a field day, amidst the death and destruction the pandemic is leaving in its wake. With a sharp rise in the curve and over 2 lakh people testing positive in one day, the second wave is far worse than the first. At such a time, the media has been rather irresponsible in giving a platform to those who wish to play politics over the funeral pyres that have not even gone cold yet.
Hindustan Times today published an opinion piece by ‘Data analyst’ Praveen Chakravarty, who is a Congress party worker.
In the article published by the Hindustan Times, Chakravarty says the following:
Praveen Chakravarty, Congress’ data analytics person, says that India has inoculated 7% of its population and needs to focus on increasing that percentage to 75%.
Essentially, there seems nothing too wrong with this suggestion. There is nothing wrong in saying that India needs to scale up its vaccination process and must reach the 75% mark in the shortest time possible. However, according to Praveen Chakravarty himself, the most important number that India needs to focus on and remember “every single day in the fight against Covid” is that of 7%.
While politicians will politic, for any publication, getting its numbers right is extremely important. Just as one gets started as an editor, or even a journalist, one is careful to ensure that the basics of the report – what, why, who, when, how much, names, places, etc are accurate. These details form the very foundation of the report and are facts that must not be trifled with.
Hindustan Times, however, seems to have dropped the ball in its urgency to publish an article that would seem to stir the political pot and therefore, benefit their publication in terms of readership.
While the opinion piece by Praveen Chakravarty claims that only 7% of the population has been inoculated, on the 8th page of Hindustan Times itself, the numbers show a very different picture.
On the 8th page of Hindustan Times, the paper declares that a total of 13.22 crore ‘total vaccinated across India’.
According to the official government website, 11.3 crore people have received at least 1 dose of the vaccination.
When one extrapolates that, it would come to about 8.3% of the entire population (taking the entire population to be 136 crores).
Therefore, when about 8.3% of the population has been inoculated according to Hindustan Times’ own numbers, the paper allowed Praveen Chakravarty to claim that only about 7% have been inoculated.
Further, one has to bear in mind that India was focussing on phased vaccination till now. Therefore, front-line workers and those above 45 have been targeted for vaccination so far. Given that multiple reports say that 25% of India’s population is above the age of 45, that would amount to about 34 crores. According to population projection for 2021 by census India, the population above 45 years of age is 34.5 crore. If we take that as a benchmark, the Government of India managed to inoculate 32.75% of the target group so far, give or take some since it also included health care workers.
Now, if we want to know what percentage of the adult population has been vaccinated, we get that India’s 18+ population is around 90 crore according to the population projection prepared in 2019 by the Census India [PDF]. Therefore, India has vaccinated almost 12.5% of the adult population. It may be noted that except the USA, no other country has opened up vaccination for the 18+ population, while India is scheduled to open it up from 1st May.
Therefore, it is rather evident that the 7% used by Praveen Chakravarty as a bedrock of his article is wildly incorrect no matter how one looks at it and a large part of the blame goes to Hindustan Times, that clearly failed to employ quality filters during the editing process. While during other times, this could be charted to oversight by HT, during a pandemic when the country is descending into panic, it has to be the responsibility of the media to present a true picture of facts, and not blindly publish what politicians and their aides want one to.
While Hindustan Times has surely failed in its duty, it would appear that Praveen Chakravarty succeeded in his, given that he has a long history of not only spreading fake news but also working for the Congress party, that has regularly indulged in fear-mongering in the midst of the pandemic.
Following the 2019 general elections debacle, while Congress IT cell head Divya Spandana had disappeared into an abyss, the grand old party’s data analytics head Praveen Chakravarty was back in the news as AICC Technology and Data Cell Chairman.
Praveen Chakravarty, it is to be noted, was also the founding trustee of the faulty ‘hate tracker’ of the dubious data analytics website, IndiaSpend. It is pertinent to note that the hate spearheaded by Chakravarty has been picked up by several publications to further a problematic narrative against Hindus. If one recalls, The Wire and IndiaSpend’s fact-checker journalist was caught trying to manipulate Dalit victims who were attacked by local Muslims to prove that there was ‘no hate crime’.
After Congress’ humiliating defeat, Chakravarty was accused of misleading the then Congress President Rahul Gandhi and feeding him wrong information. In fact, Congress also suspected that Praveen Chakravarty was a mole planted by the Modi government to ensure that Rahul Gandhi is fed misinformation in order to hand him a loss. In July 2019, it was reported that Congress will disband the data analytics department. And while the department was indeed disbanded, Praveen Chakravarty was rehabilitated in its restructured ‘technology and data cell’.
In June 2019 it was reported that Chakravarty had allegedly conned Rahul Gandhi and set him up for the humiliating defeat. Rahul Gandhi was reportedly made to believe that the party would secure somewhere between 164 and 184 seats in the 2019 general elections. Congress, however, ended with 52 seats and Gandhi even lost the ‘family’ seat of Amethi which has elected many of his family members.
Praveen Chakravarty was responsible for handling the Shakti App on the basis of which inputs were given to Rahul Gandhi. He was evidently made to believe by Praveen Chakravarty that the party will be securing somewhere between 164 and 184 seats in the elections.