It’s long been common knowledge that most of India’s journalists are largely innumerate, but make up for their lack of mathematical skills with some knowledge about how India’s government and systems work. But it now turns out that they’re equally deficient in both.
The Print’s Editor for National and Strategic Affairs, Jyoti Malhotra, had yesterday reacted with consternation on Twitter after Mansukh Mandaviya, the Minister for State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways, had issued a Press Release about the government stepping up the production of Remdesivir. “What does the Shipping Minister have to do with banning the export of Remdesivir, an anti-Covid drug? Where is Health min @drharshvardhan,” she’d angrily tweeted, tagging Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan. At this point, it had been pointed out to her that Mansukh Mandaviya was also Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers, but Jyoti Malhotra had doubled down. “So Remdesivir is a chemical and a fertilizer? Come on, there must be another explanation,” she’d shot back. It had been then pointed out to her that since Remdesivir was a medicine, it came under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, which in turn came under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
Now you’d expect someone who covers national affairs to know these things — or in the very least use Google before angrily tagging Union Ministers — but India’s journalists aren’t exactly known for being competent. As it turns out, The Print’s Jyoti Malhotra isn’t only innocent to how the government works — she also thinks that 1 million means 1 lakh.
Last year, in an interview, Shamika Ravi had told Jyoti Malhotra that the number of Covid cases in most countries were less than had been initially estimated. “Even in the Chinese case, where the expectation was for a million patients, eventually they had about 85,000,” Ravi said. At this point, Jyoti Malhotra interjected and said “But that’s not so far away from a million.” A million, of course, is 10 lakh, but Malhotra clearly thought it was 1 lakh, and hence said it was close to 85,000. Shamika Ravi seemed nonplussed, but continued the interview.
Jyoti Malhotra is The Print’s National Affairs and Strategic Affairs Editor, and routinely comments on all range of issues including Russia’s foreign policy and the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party. As per her LinkedIn profile, she only has BA and MA in Psychology.
The Print, interestingly, urges people to donate money to support its journalism. “The Print has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it,” says a message on its website. With senior editors being oblivious to the structure of government ministries and also basic mathematics, its subscribers could well wonder if they’re quite getting their money’s worth.