Shoddy fact-checking seems to have become as big a problem as fake news itself. It is not uncommon for news portals and fact-checking websites to incorrectly fact check the establishment and then it becomes an altogether different task to show that it is, in fact, the so-called fact-checker who has erred.
Take the case of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Last Saturday, the Finance Minister addressed the launch of ‘Ubharte Sitaare Fund’ of the Small Industries Bank of India (SIDBI) and the India Exim Bank in Lucknow. Sitharaman said that Uttar Pradesh has the highest MSMEs in the country and has effectively implemented the One District One Product programme, “which provides the ideal ecosystem for success of an initiative like the Ubharte Sitaare Fund”.
Scroll has stated that Nirmala Sitharaman’s claim about the highest number of MSMEs in Uttar Pradesh is false. The online portal added, “The state has a total of 12,78,072 MSME units registered, which means it has the third-highest number of MSMEs in the country, according to data shared by Union Minister of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Narayan Rane in Lok Sabha on July 29. With more than 28.38 lakh MSMEs registered, Maharashtra tops the list, followed by Tamil Nadu with 15,40,859 MSMEs.”
The Indian National Congress too shared the Scroll report on Twitter and said, “Lying seems to be a precondition for being a member of the Modi govt.”
Lying seems to be a precondition for being a member of the Modi govt.https://t.co/Wh9O6mu7HH
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 26, 2021
Meanwhile, FactChecker.in too shared a similar report.
Anyway, let us put some facts on record which show that Sitharaman didn’t actually lie.
What Scroll and other sources are talking about is the number of ‘registered’ MSMEs, that is, those MSMEs who have got themselves registered themselves with the “Udyam Registration” portal, which was launched by the MSME Ministry. Narayan Rane’s answer in the Parliament too was based on the same data.
It may be noted that registration on the Udyam portal is voluntary and not mandatory. Also, the Union Finance Minister was talking about the MSMEs and not the ‘registered’ MSMEs. She is therefore right- the state of Uttar Pradesh reportedly has 89.99 lakh MSMEs as per the 2020-21 report published by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises that relied on data given by the 73rd Round Survey (2015-16).
In fact, as per the MSME report, West Bengal ranks second, Tamil Nadu ranks third and Maharashtra ranks fourth in terms of the number of MSMEs. What the fact-checkers ignored was that Nirmala Sitharaman was talking about all MSMEs. By connecting what the Union Finance Minister said with the registration of MSMEs, the online fact-checking portals were actually comparing apples and oranges.
The fact check against Nirmala Sitharaman has turned out to be too weak and baseless. In fact, those fact-checking the Union Finance Minister have themselves got fact-checked.