Media misreports: Rags to riches story of a mason who secured 53rd rank in UPSC 2018

On April 7, the Hindi news channel ABP News interviewed Sumit Kumar Vishwakarma, a mason who had secured 53rd rank in 2018 UPSC with his own effort without any coaching. This interview came after the Union Public Service Commission declared the final result for the Civil Service Examination 2018 on April 5. The interview, which has now been deleted from the ABP News website, can be seen below. In the video, the interviewer asked, “what was your subject?”, to which he replied, “general studies and after 10th (class) Maths and Science”. The interviewer again asked, “what were your subjects in UPSC preparation”, and then he answered, “my base was General studies and English”. The interviewed was centred around the fact that he did masonry work and was still able to clear the exams.

Multiple media outlets including Zee News, The Lallantop, Times Now Hindi and Dainik Bhaskar had reported the story with the same narrative that Sumit Vishwakarma from Madhya Pradesh has attained 53rd rank in CSE 2018. The story published by Dainik Bhaskar and Times Now Hindi has now been deleted without a clarification. Several mainstream outlets had also reported that the boy, who did masonry work, has now cleared the prestigious exam.

Zee News

Zee News has updated their article with a completely different narrative and story altogether, but their hyperlink still stated, “sumit-vishwakarma-cleared-upsc-civil-services-exam-with-53rd-rank”. The report is now titled, “भारत की विकास गाथा का हिस्सा बनना चाहता था : UPSC टॉपर कनिष्क कटारिया”. This completely refurbished article fails to mention that it was updated with a different story.

Fact-check

Alt News found that the list of 759 candidates recommended by the UPSC includes Sumit Kumar (AIR 53) and not Sumit Kumar Vishwakarma.

Furthermore, we found a Facebook post by the successful candidate Sumit Kumar from Bihar calling out the fake news that Sumit Kumar Vishwakarma from Madhya Pradesh has secured 53rd rank in the recently declared result of UPSC. The post said, “A fake news has been circulating in media covered by ABP news that a person named “Sumit Kumar Vishwakarma” has got rank 53 in civil services examination (CSE), 2018.” The post, which was earlier public, has now been made private.

Moreover, we found the Facebook profile of the successful candidate and were able to establish his identity based on a picture posted in 2014, which matches with his photo attested in the UPSC application. For privacy reasons, we are obfuscating his profile picture in our screenshots.

Sumit Kumar, the successful candidate had also cleared the prestigious exam in 2017, where he had secured 493rd rank. He is currently serving as Officer Trainee at the Indian Defence Estates Service.

In conversation with Alt News, Sumit Kumar from Bihar, who has secured 53rd rank in the CSE 2018, said, “I had put out a Facebook post after I was informed that media has misreported [someone else as me]. Now, I have made my Facebook post private as my contact details were also there in the screenshots, [of the application form] which I had posted”. 

According to a fact-check published by TOI, news agency IANS had also reported that Sumit Kumar Vishwakarma, who had attained 53rd rank in UPSC, is a mason. The agency has now published a clarificatory story acknowledging it as a case of mistaken identity.

Speaking to TOISumit Kumar Vishwakarma, who was mistakenly interviewed by ABP News as the successful candidate said that he was misinformed about clearing the exam and making the cut. Explaining the series of events, he said that ‘media personnel’, who allegedly informed him of clearing the exam, were waiting for him at Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur, his native place to interview him. He said, “I just saw his [Sumit Kumar’s] admit card. We share the same name and that created the confusion”. When Vishwakarma was asked to provide a copy of his admit card, he said, “That’s the whole issue. I can’t find my admit card nor do I remember my roll number”.

The Lallantop

The Lallantop had also reported the story but unlike other media outlets, they have issued a clarification in their fact-check article. This claim was earlier debunked by NDTV.

All that was required was a perusal of the UPSC website where the result has been published, and it would have been clear that the name of the successful candidate is Sumit Kumar and not Sumit Kumar Vishwakarma, as reported by several news organisations.

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