“OMG Vice President’s budget is six times that of the President.” or “Vice President spent seven times more than the Prime Minister on foreign travel“, you must have heard statements like this from multiple fake news websites and twitter handles after ex VP Hamid Ansari completed his term. Even though the source of the news itself gives a clue about it being false, let us examine some of these fake and malicious claims about an outgoing Vice President of India.
In July, Punjab Kesari, a mainstream website ran a story claimed that the Vice President’s budget is more than that of the President. The article titled “न आलीशान भवन, न सुरक्षा कवच फिर भी राष्ट्रपति से ज्यादा उपराष्ट्रपति का बजट” stated that in the current year budget, Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley allocated a budget of Rs 66 crore for the President but Rs 377.21 crore for the Vice President.
The numbers quoted above found their way to twitter handles and websites known to spread fake news around the time Hamid Ansari completed his term. Fake news website DD Bharti reported a massive Rs. 377.21 crore budget and went a step further with the insinuations of wrongdoing. DD Bharti’s story, “हामिद अंसारी को लेकर हुए जबरदस्त खुलासे से हिल गया पूरा देश, ऐसी लूट देख पीएम मोदी भी सन्न” spoke of a scam in the Rajya Sabha TV.
A similar story, in India Samvad, titled “अंसारी के चेयरमैन रहते राज्यसभा टीवी में हुआ घोटाला, चहेते पत्रकारों को किया मालामाल” went on to state “इतना पैसा तो आमतौर पर बॉलीवुड वाले भी अपनी कामर्शियल फिल्मों के नहीं खर्च करते। राष्ट्रपति से कई गुना ज्यादा बजट खर्च किया उपराष्ट्रपति ने” (What the Vice President spent is many times more than what it takes to make Bollywood commercial movies).
The source of this news was given as the Twitter handle of Supreme Court advocate Prashant P Umrao who was recently in the news for being the source of another fake story about the victim of the Chandigarh stalking incident. The two articles appeared after Umrao had made these assertions:
No discussion on fake news is complete without Postcard News which also made an outlandish claim saying “Vice president spent 300 crores on foreign travel, 7 times more than Prime Minister of India”
Is the budget of the Vice President’s secretariat six times that of the President?
The budget for the Vice President’s secretariat is nowhere near Rs. 377.21 crores. Nor is it six times that of the President. The budget of the Vice President’s secretariat in 2017-18 was Rs. 5.3 crores and in 2016-17 it was Rs. 4.61 crores.
So where did the figure of Rs. 377.21 crore come from? This amount was the budget for the Rajya Sabha in 2016-17 which was wrongly quoted as that of the Vice President.
As per the Union Budget documents, the budget under the head of the President, Parliamentand the Secretariat of the Vice President is as follows:
|75. Staff, Household and Allowances of the President||56.00||66.00|
|76. Lok Sabha||624.29||664.26|
|77. Rajya Sabha||377.21||387.40|
|78. Secretariat of the Vice-President||4.61||5.30|
The Budget breakdown for the Rs. 5.3 crores for the Vice President’s Secretariat is as follows:
Vice President’s own salary comes out of the Rajya Sabha budget as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Rs. 377.21 crores which has been wrongly projected by the fake news sites as the budget of the Vice President’s secretariat is in reality the budget for the entire Rajya Sabha. It includes the following:
- Salaries and allowances etc. of the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and its Secretariat.
- Salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament, expenses on account of other facilities, Parliamentary delegations going abroad and foreign Parliamentary delegations visiting India and expenditure towards setting up of the Chair in Parliament Studies in Rajya Sabha Secretariat
- Salaries for the staff and officers, establishment related needs, subsidy for the Railway Canteen functioning in the Parliament House and expenditure on Rajya Sabha TV Channel.
- Salaries and allownaces in respect of the staff and officers of the Secretariat
- Provision for the of Leaders/Dy. Leaders and Chief Whips of recognised parties and groups
- Provision for the expenditure on account of Domestic Travel of Members of Parliament relating to the Consultative Committee meetings
In a malicious attempt, this entire budget of the upper house of the parliament was quoted by fake news sites as the budget of the Vice President’s secretariat.
Did the Vice President spend seven times more on travel as compared to the Prime Minister?
Vice President of India makes a handful of trips each year for official engagements, details of which are available on the Ministry of External Affairs website. Looking at the number of trips it doesn’t seem like the expenditure can be seven times that of the Prime Minister. The claim of the Postcard news can be traced to a RTI about the outstanding bills on account of the chartered VVIP flights, maintenance of the aircraft and evacuation missions by the External Affairs Ministry (MEA)
As per the response to the RTI, Bills of Rs 206.19 crore towards 22 visits of the Vice President between June, 2008 and March 2017 were still pending with the MEA. Bills of Rs 47.37 crore was pending towards six visits of the Prime Minister between November 2016 and February 2017. Postcard news has compared 22 visits of the Vice President in nine years with 6 visits of the Prime Minister in three months to arrive at its conclusion. It has completely missed the point that these are bills pending with the MEA and not the total spend on foreign travel.
Interestingly Postcard News is on a mission to discredit the ex-Vice President. It has seven articles focused on Hamid Ansari since Aug 10th. Each one attempts to build a fake narrative around him.
Hamid Ansari has been the target of a vicious right-wing troll attack after he mentioned about a sense of unease among the Muslims in an interview. After creating fake controversies around saluting the national flag and missing the Yoga day, the attack has taken the shape of doctoring data to spread further falsehoods about him. It is surprising that BJP ministers who are otherwise so active on social media have not stepped in to clear some of these obviously false statements about an outgoing Vice President of India who spent two terms in office. On second thoughts, may be it is not so surprising after all.