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How Bloomberg Quint misquoted Nitin Gadkari to suit their own agenda

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We all know that the media in India tends to make up stuff and then issue a tiny retraction buried in page 10 right next to the obituary section. They also tend to twist facts and misrepresent numbers to present their narrative. This is one more such case of manipulation of facts and figures to allow them to write a clickbaitey headline.

Bloomberg Quint in an article, headlined “Despite Gadkari’s Tall Claims, Road Construction Is Way Behind Target” put out the following “facts”.

  • “Fact” 1: Mr Gadkari had set a target of 40 kms/day for the NHAI (The NHAI bit is important), to quote the article, “Gadkari maintained the National Highways Authority of India’s FY17 target of awarding new road projects to build 15,000 kilometres even though the road authority’s own data draws a very different picture.”
  • “Fact” 2: The NHAI has awarded contracts only for 2,360 KM’s this year and that this is only 16% of the target,
  • “Fact” 3: I will let the article do the talking here, “The data sourced by BloombergQuint from the NHAI website shows that a mere 1,417 kilometres have been built so far this year, translating to an average of 6 kilometres per day versus the targeted 40 kilometres. That’s just 15 percent.”

Now let us consider the real facts here shall we?

  • Fact 1 – Mr Gadkari had never said that the NHAI had a target of 15,000 km’s in FY 2016-17. He said and I quote from this news report:
    “The politics of development is the priority of this government. We want to raise the speed of our highway construction to 41 kilometres a day”.

As you can see, Mr Gadkari never said that the NHAI (which is but one authority that lays highways) would deliver on this target, but his ministry would.

  • Fact 2 – A basic fact check showed that the government had awarded 3,969 km’s as contracts in the period Apr 1 – Sept 30th.
  • Fact 3 – Some more fact checking showed that the govt had built 2,939 km’s of highways in the period April 1st to Sept 30th, at a daily rate of 16.5 km’s day which is the highest we have managed since independence.

So, what is the cause of this discrepancy?

Well, turns out that the “journalists” who wrote this article are spectacularly disingenuous. For some unknown reason, they sourced their “data” from the NHAI page and included ONLY NHAI built roads in their article. The reality is that the Ministry headed by Mr Gadkari has 3 core divisions under it.

  • The NHAI
  • The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL)
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH).

All three combined fund and build highways in India. The NHIDCL has taken over from the BRDO in building roads in border areas and this corporation alone has 7,957 km’s of highways in the pipeline.

As we don’t have the full data set yet available, back of the envelope calculations based on 2015’s performance can throw some light on what the possible end numbers for 2016 could be.

In 2015, India built 6,029 km’s of roads. Out of which, NHAI built only 2000 km. The rest were by the the other agencies that build national highways in the country. Till Nov this year, NHAI has completed 1400 km’s from April-November(this also includes the monsoon period), and one can expect the NHAI to add another 1,500 km’s in the remaining period. Taking the total to approx. 3,000 km’s. Extrapolating the figure from last year where NHAI constructed approx. 30% of the highways constructed totally, this would mean a total figure of 9,000 km’s. This translates to around 25 kms/day which will fall short of the target of 30 kms/day (revised down from 40 km’s) but would still be the best performance since independence.

Clearly though the need to sell a clickbaitey headline is a higher need than basic journalistic integrity and rudimentary fact checking.

Note – A query to the journalists asking why they only chose the NHAI data and ignored the others went unanswered.

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