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Double Check: Fact Checking the West Bengal Assembly Election

Double Check: Fact Checking the West Bengal Assembly Election

As of March 27, the 2021 West Bengal Legislative Assembly Election, which is to take place over four weeks and in eight phases, is underway. Unsurprisingly, misinformation about the parties' respective candidates has already been circulating on social media. Here are a few claims pertaining to West Bengal that we checked. We will be updating this section with more fact checks when they come through.

TRUE: Mamata Banerjee said that rape cases in the country are on the rise because men and women interact more openly.

In 2012, it was reported that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had previously stated that rape cases in India were on the rise because men and women have the opportunity to interact with each other more freely.

She told a television channel, "Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It's like an open market with open options."

With West Bengal assembly elections underway, Banerjee's comment is being circulated again by her political rivals on social media to insinuate that Banerjee has done little to ensure the safety of women in the state.

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: All India Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien is of Irish ancestry.

In August 2012, O'Brien published a blog post titled "The O'Briens of India and Pakistan." In this blog post, he revealed that his great-grandmother Neille Bella O'Brien, who was born into a well-to-do Bengali Christian family, later married a second-generation Irish settler (Anglo-Indian) in India. Her first-born Patrick stayed on to work and live in Pakistan. O'Brien also wrote that his was the only Christian family in a middle-class, predominantly Bengali-Hindu neighbourhood in Kolkata.

Derek's father, the late Neil O'Brien, was considered the pioneer of quizzing in India. A former member of the Lok Sabha he was a three-time nominated Anglo-Indian MLA in West Bengal and an educationist. He was also the president-in-chief of All-India Anglo-Indian Association and headed the Frank Anthony group of schools.

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: Jawaharlal Nehru spied on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's family members.

Two declassified records from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), now maintained at the National Archives, reveal that Bose family members were kept under surveillance by the Nehru government from 1948 to 1968. However, the Indian National Congress has denied such claims and labeled them as propaganda to discredit the Nehru family.

The documents shared between the IB and the British Intelligence agency MI5 indicate that Indian operatives passed information from Bose's letters to their British counterparts. The operatives intercepted and recorded letters of Bose's family. Further, IB sleuths discreetly tailed family members as they traveled across India and abroad, recording every minute detail about their meetings and discussions.

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: The Kanyashree Prakalpa scheme has been recognized by the United Nations.

Kanyashree Prakalpa, a scheme launched by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has received the U.N.'s highest public service award.

Kanyashree Prakalpa was introduced in West Bengal by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in October 2013. It is a targeted, conditional cash transfer scheme that promotes education and skill development among girls.

The scheme has helped more than 40 lakh school and college-going girls and has been implemented through 16,000 institutes and schools across West Bengal. Girls are given small amounts of money as scholarships under the condition of continuous school attendance. The scheme's main objective is to improve the socio-economic status of girl children and prevent child marriage.

Read the full fact check here.

MISLEADING: The TMC government deprived the people of West Bengal of health benefits by not implementing Ayushman Bharath.

Ayushman Bharath was not implemented by the West Bengal government, as the state already had the Swasthya Sathi health scheme.

The Indian government says that they aim to provide free healthcare access for almost 50 crore people through Ayushman Bharat, a scheme that provides financial aid for healthcare worth Rs. 5 lakh. Ayushman Bharat is 60 percent funded by the central government and the remaining 40 percent by individual states.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that her government was ready to implement Ayushman Bharat if the central government would fund it entirely. West Bengal already has the Swasthya Sathi project, launched on February 17, 2016, which provides essential health cover for secondary and tertiary care of up to Rs 5 lakh per annum per family.

Read the full fact check here.

PARTLY TRUE: Sourav Ganguly, Mithun Chakraborty, and Proshenjit Chatterjee are joining the BJP.

Over the past months, photos of top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders with the three Bengali icons Sourav Ganguly, Mithun Chakraborty, and Proshenjit Chatterjee have gone viral on social media claiming they would join the BJP party. The West Bengal state elections are scheduled to be held over March and April in 8 phases.

Chakraborty joined the BJP party officially ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally at Brigade ground on March 7. However, Ganguly and Chatterjee have not joined the party.

Mithun Chakraborty has joined the BJP, but Sourav Ganguly and Proshenjit have not expressed an interest in joining the party.

Read the full fact check here.

MISLEADING: The Modi government has made teaching the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana mandatory in madrasas.

One hundred madrasas accredited by the NIOS will have the option to teach the Ramayan and the Gita. It is not mandatory.

In March 2021, the NIOS announced its new curriculum, which included 15 new courses on "Bharatiya Jnana Parampara," a move intended to revive ancient Indian knowledge. These courses include teaching texts like the Ramayana, the Bhagwat Gita, and the Vedas, and there is also a course on yoga. They were introduced as part of the New Education Policy 2020 to be initially taught at the elementary level classes. This new curriculum of the NIOS would apply to all NIOS accredited institutions, including 100 madrasas across India. 

Read the full fact check here.

UNVERIFIABLE: One BJP worker died and five got injured while making crude bombs at Gosaba, West Bengal.

On March 6, a bomb explosion shook Arampur in the Gosaba area in the South 24 Parganas district of poll-bound West Bengal.

According to the Times of India, the incident claimed a 25-year-old BJP worker Sobhan Debnath's life and left five others injured. The article further reported that a bomb squad was sent to the spot, and they found crude bombs stashed close to the spot.

Through prima facie evidence, police have named the BJP workers as the accused. However, the case is still being investigated. Therefore, at present, we cannot ascertain if the blast took place while the BJP workers were making crude bombs, and hence we have marked this claim as unverifiable. We will update this claim with more information as the investigation proceeds.

Read the full fact check here.

PARTLY TRUE: West Bengal will provide free COVID-19 vaccines to all.

In West Bengal, over a hundred centers have started the second phase of a COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals can sign up for the CoWin portal and choose their preferred vaccine center. 

According to the guidance note for COWIN 2.0 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, COVID vaccines will be administered at COVID vaccination centers (CVCs) which include government COVID vaccination centers (GCVCs) and private COVID vaccination centers (PCVCs). GCVCs include all government medical colleges, district hospitals, sub-district hospitals, community health centers, primary health centers, sub-health centers and central institutions, health facilities of other ministries such as Railways, ESIC, Home, etc., and all CGHS Dispensaries.

Vaccines will be provided free of charge at the government health facilities but there will be a charge at private health facilities.

Read the full fact check here.   

TRUE: West Bengal ranks number one in tea productivity.

The All India Trinamool Congress recently tweeted that tea productivity in West Bengal is the highest in India. Tea productivity is determined by total tea production (in million kilograms) and total tea growing area (in thousand hectares).

We sourced chronological and regional tea production data from the India Tea Association (ITA). According to ITA, West Bengal's total tea production in 2020 stood at 387,460 million kilograms. The total tea growing area for different regions was only available for 2018, and Bengal's tea growing area was 148,121.74 thousand hectares.

In line with our research, West Bengal's total tea productivity for the year 2020 stood at 2615.82 Kg/Ha while the national average stood at 1928.50 Kg/Ha. However, these figures differ from the figures quoted by the Trinamool Congress: 2706 Kg/Ha as WB's annual productivity and 2289 Kg/Ha as the national average. It is unclear how the political party concluded these figures.

Read the full fact check here.

MISLEADING: West Bengal has been allotted only five sites for the public vaccination drive.

From March 1, 2021, India began its second phase of coronavirus vaccination to immunize senior citizens and people with co-morbidities in the age bracket of 45-59 years.

Those who want to get the vaccine will have to register on the upgraded version of the app CoWIN app or the website. Upon completing registration, vaccination centers in the vicinity are displayed, and a person can choose a center and a time slot as per convenience.

According to the guidance note for COWIN 2.0 issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, COVID vaccines will be administered at COVID vaccination centers (CVCs) which include government COVID vaccination centers (GCVCs) and private COVID vaccination centers (PCVCs). GCVCs include all government medical colleges, district hospitals, sub-district hospitals, community health centers, primary health centers, sub-health centers and central institutions, health facilities of other ministries such as Railways, ESIC, Home, etc., and all CGHS Dispensaries.

Besides the five hospitals empanelled under the PMJAY scheme, vaccination is being conducted at many other government and private hospitals in the state.

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: Yogi Adityanath: If BJP comes to power in Bengal, TMC goons will hang placards from their neck seeking forgiveness for their crimes like in UP.

In February 2019, during a campaign rally at Purulia in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that "Once the BJP came to power in West Bengal, the TMC goons would hang placards in their neck and beg for their lives as the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) outlaws were doing in UP."

Read the full fact check here.

UNVERIFIABLE: Indira Gandhi said "We avenged our thousand-year slavery on Muslims" after the fall of Dhaka.

The authenticity of this quote continues to be a subject of debate for experts.

On December 16, 1971, the Pakistani Army surrendered to the Indian forces after facing defeat in the Indo-Pakistani war, which led to the formation of Bangladesh. Ever since the battle took place, several Pakistan-based publications have published a quote attributing it to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. she had allegedly said, "We avenged our thousand-year slavery on Muslims." However, the authenticity of the quote has been debated by researchers.

Almost every Pakistani diplomat, general, cleric, politician, and journalist has mentioned the quote at some point, according to The News on Sunday, a leading Pakistani magazine. According to TNS, there are several variations of this quote circulating on the internet which cast doubts on its authenticity.

Read the full fact check here.

FALSE: BJP’s Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh said that Mamata would have to get back to cooking once she lost the 2021 polls.

A social media post claims that Bharatiya Janta Party Bengal Chief Dilip Ghosh said that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would have to get back to her cooking job after she loses the 2021 assembly election. The claim is not true.

On January 31, 2020, a picture of Banerjee cooking vegetables was shared on Twitter by Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP National General Secretary and Central observer for West Bengal. He shared the image with the caption: "The work that didi (Mamata) has to do after five months, she has started right now."

The picture was originally from Banerjee's surprise visit to a tribal village in the Birbhum district, where she joined the tribal women in cooking vegetables. Soon after Vijayvargiya's tweet, the leader faced a lot of flak from Trinamool Congress for the "misogynistic" remark. 

Read the full fact check here.

PARTLY TRUE: A cleric from Furfura Sharif in Bengal said that he wished 50 crore Hindus in India would die of coronavirus.

Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui, an influential cleric from Furfura Sharif, a holy place for Bengali Muslims in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, recently launched a new political outfit: the Indian Secular Front. The Indian Secular Front has joined the Left Front and Congress alliance for the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal.

Siddiqui's political candidature has triggered a discussion on social media about his communal leanings. An old video of Siddiqui has been circulated. This video claims that Siddiqui wished 50 crore Indians should die of the coronavirus. 

Though clips of the original video of Siddiqui's speech are available on Twitter, the original video is unavailable on YouTube, so it’s impossible to ascertain if he was actually quoted out of context without seeing the whole video, we have marked this claim partly true.

Read the full fact check here.

PARTY TRUE: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will contest the upcoming elections in the state from Nandigram and Bhawanipore.

West Bengal's Legislative Assembly elections for 294 seats are expected to be held in 2021. While addressing a public meeting, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that she would contest the upcoming elections in the state from Nandigram, and if possible, she would also contest from Bhawanipore in South Kolkata.

Read the full fact check here.

FALSE: The dates for the West Bengal assembly elections have been announced by the Election Commission of India.

An image claiming that the Election Commission of India has declared the West Bengal assembly election dates has gone viral on social media. According to the image, the election is slated to be held in seven phases from April 1 to May 19.

This is not true. As of February 24, 2021, the Election Commission of India has not announced the polling dates for the West Bengal assembly election.

Read the full fact check here.  

TRUE: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has never won an assembly election in West Bengal.

Since 1982, the BJP has contested eight assembly elections in West Bengal and has not won a single election in the state to date.

In West Bengal, the 17th Assembly election is likely to be held in April-May 2021. The BJP was founded in 1980. They contested the West Bengal Assembly Election for the first time in 1982, following which the party kept participating in all the subsequent assembly elections in the state (1987, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016).

According to the Election Commission of India's records, the BJP has never won the Assembly elections in West Bengal. 

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: Election related violence has cost dozens of lives in West Bengal over the past decade.

The state of West Bengal has a long history of violence during election season. The state conducts Panchayat elections, Assembly elections, and Lok Sabha elections. According to various media reports, from 2011 to 2021, the number of deaths that have occured during elections is approximately 75. However, this is just the number of reported deaths, and there is a possibility some fatalities and instances of violence were not reported.

Read the full fact check here.

FALSE: West Bengal has the highest number of rape cases.

The 2019 annual report from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that Rajasthan reported the highest number of rapes cases with 5,997 cases. In comparison, West Bengal reported 1069 rape cases in 2019. 

According to the report, India registered 32,033 rape cases throughout the country. States with the highest relative incidence of sexual violence against women included Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Chhattisgarh.

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: Andhra Pradesh has overtaken West Bengal as the largest producer of fish.

According to the Economic Survey 2020, the total fish production of Andhra Pradesh was the highest of all states in 2017-18. West Bengal had the second highest total fish production.

Read the full fact check here.

MISLEADING: Government employees of West Bengal have been deprived of the benefits of the 7th Pay Commission.

On February 18, 2021, Union Home Minister Amit Shah promised to implement the 7th Pay Commission in West Bengal if the BJP is elected in the upcoming assembly elections.

The 7th Pay commission was constituted in February 2014. On Sept 5, 2016, the central government implemented its recommendations. The Harish Rawat's Congress-led Uttarakhand government was the first to implement the 7CPC.

Though the 7CPC is yet to be implemented in West Bengal, it would not be correct to say that the state's employees have been deliberately deprived of the benefits by the TMC-led government. The loans which the previous governments incurred have posed hurdles to the implementation of the revised pay structures.

Read the full fact check here.

FALSE: It is illegal to chant Jai Shri Ram in Bengal.

On January 23, 2021, Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister, refused to speak at an event after some people chanted "Jai Shri Ram.”

There have been instances where Banerjee and other TMC aides have been displeased with people chanting "Jai Shri Ram.” However, there is no legal restriction from any authorities that stop people from chanting “Jai Shri Ram” slogans. Chanting “Jai Shri Ram”  is not illegal in West Bengal.

Read the full fact check here.

UNVERIFIABLE: TMC workers vandalized BJP's raths in a godown in Kadarpara. 

On February 27, a video was shared on Twitter by the National Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party, Kailash Vijayviargia. Vijayvargia claimed that the video shows TMC workers vandalizing a godown and BJP's campaign vehicles in Bengal. He alleged that TMC workers vandalized the godown in response to the Election Commission's dates for Bengal's state elections, which were not received well by the TMC. 

However, there is no evidence that TMC workers were responsible for the alleged vandalism.

Read the full fact check here.

TRUE: Congress shared old images to claim that lakhs attended their rally in West Bengal. 

A picture of a large crowd at a rally has been circulating on social media. Some are claiming that this image is from a recent joint rally organized by Congress and the CPI(M). 

When we did a reverse image search on the picture, we discovered that the images are actually from a rally from 2019. A Google keyword search found a report from People's Dispatch, a media organization with viral images in February 2019. For the upcoming Bengal elections, the Left Front has teamed up with Congress to form the Indian Secular Front (ISF). Although they held a rally on February 28 to kick off their campaign, the viral picture is from 2019.

Read the full fact check here.

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