Ad-vantage BJP: Facebook’s Unfair Pricing Helped It Campaign; Decoding Modi’s Welfarist Promises
Farmers’ debts grew 53% in six years, Sonia sacks PCC chiefs, governors versus states tournament ahead, Times Group univ students cannot protest, online classes raise children’s orthopaedic cases 50%
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
March 16, 2022
In Part 2 and Part 3 of the Reporters Collective’s important exposé on the links between India’s ruling party, India’s richest man and the social media behemoth Facebook, now Meta, whose rules are lax and discriminatory, it has “found the BJP and its candidates officially placed 26,291 advertisements by spending at least Rs 104 million ($1.36m), for which they got more than 1.36 billion views on Facebook. That apart, at least 23 ghost and surrogate advertisers also placed 34,884 advertisements for which they paid Facebook more than Rs 58.3 million ($761,246), mostly to promote the BJP or denigrate its opposition, without disclosing their real identities or their affiliation with the party.” All of this has been revealed by analysing ads placed on Facebook across 22 months and 10 elections.
The exposé also shows that Facebook promoted BJP’s advertisements at a substantially lower rate than the Congress’s in nine out of 10 elections. Data-backed evidence gathered by the Reporters’ Collective shows for the first time that Facebook’s favourable pricing allowed the BJP to reach more voters for less money than the Opposition parties, giving it an unfair advantage in election campaigns. On average, Facebook charged BJP, its candidates and affiliated organisations Rs 41,844 to show its ads 1 million times. But the Congress, its candidates and affiliated organisations had to pay nearly 29% more for the same number of views. Going by the higher rate Facebook charged the Congress, it has paid at least Rs 11.7 million more than what it would have paid for the same number of views, if it was offered the rate given to the BJP.
In Parliament, Sonia Gandhi has urged the government ― irrespective of who is in office ― to “put an end to the systematic influence and interference of Facebook and other social media giants in the electoral politics of the world’s largest democracy.”
The Times Group’s Bennett University in Greater Noida has asked students and their parents to sign an undertaking, asking them not to participate, support or promote any kind of “anti-national” or “anti-social activity” within or outside the campus. One of the “anti-national” activities defined is “participating in an unlawful gathering or protest”. This directive was sent out on March 14 and the university says it is in line with state guidelines in Uttar Pradesh.
With the summer months approaching and power and coal demand expected to touch a record high, the Ministry of Railways has said it can’t offer more rakes for coal supply. Since last year, the Railways have been curtailing rake supply to non-regulated sectors to meet the enhanced demand of the power sector. The ministry is of the view that “any more curtailing will cause crucial infrastructure industries to suffer.”
Farmers’ debts increased 53% over the past six years, the Union Finance Ministry told the Rajya Sabha yesterday. In 2020-21, outstanding agricultural loans with scheduled commercial banks amounted to more than Rs 18.4 lakh crore, in comparison to Rs 12 lakh crore in 2015-16, with the number of farmers’ accounts holding such debts also growing from 6.9 crore to more than 10 crore.
Pakistan has reiterated its demand for a joint probe with India over the recent “inadvertent” missile launch into its territory, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi describing Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Parliament as “incomplete and insufficient”. Bloomberg reports that Pakistan had prepared to launch a similar missile against India but held back because an initial assessment indicated that something was amiss. It also said that Indian Air Force officials moved to shut down missile systems to avoid any further launches, indicating that there were more missiles ready on the launcher. While all cruise missiles have designated targets, the one fired didn’t arm itself because it failed to reach the intended destination, it adds, suggesting that the missile had a warhead. Rahul Bedi looks at the official Indian spin over the incident.
With the BJP back in power, in an unusual move, a man from UP has burnt his educational certificates. He said that in the next five years, he will be over age and disqualified from government jobs. His action does not speak well of the electorate’s confidence in the new BJP government’s ability to solve the state’s gargantuan unemployment problem.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has asked Pradesh Congress Committee chiefs of UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur to resign. That means marching orders for Navjot Singh Sidhu.
DMK MP DNV Senthilkumar S said in the lower house yesterday that the Hindi names of various schemes of the central government were “blessings in disguise” because people in non-Hindi speaking states don’t understand their meaning. “Please tell us the English name of the PMAY. Since people don’t understand the true meaning, the credit does not go to you (Union government),” he said during Question Hour.
The Finance Ministry informed the Rajya Sabha yesterday that there is no plan to set up a fiscal council as proposed by the 15th Finance Commission and the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management panel. The establishment of an independent fiscal council was first proposed by the 14th FC. Its scope and functions were later defined by the FRBM committee in 2017 and by the 15th FC in its report for 2021-22 (FY22) to 2025-26. NK Singh headed both the FRBM panel and the 15th FC.
According to data provided by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, women make up 10.3% of the police force, all-India. Bihar has the highest percentage of women police, 25.3%, followed by Himachal Pradesh with 19.15% and Chandigarh with 18.78%. There are only 3.68% women in the Central Armed Police Forces.
Among the four airlines offering direct flights to London from Delhi, Air India’s flight duration is the shortest, at nine hours. This is because they continue to take the earlier flight path, which crosses parts of Russia. Vistara, a joint venture between Tata and SIA, takes nine hours 20 minutes to reach London, because they don’t fly over Russia. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are also taking longer routes to avoid flying over Russia.
A 50% rise in paediatric orthopaedic cases with complaints of excruciating pain in the neck and back have been noted in hospital OPDs with doctors attributing it primarily to bad posture and lack of physical activity during online classes.
In December, the UP Police choked off the Muslim Nai Abadi area of Dadri by walling off its only access route to the world, apparently at the bidding of people of the majority community.
The “precarious lives of India’s Covid widows” is portrayed via photographs by NPR.