On the frontline of India's WhatsApp fake news war

  • 20 August 2018
  • From the section India
Fake news class in Kerala Image copyright SK MOHAN
Image caption Fake news classes are being held in 150 government schools in Kerala

Mobs have lynched at least 25 people across India after reading false rumours spread on WhatsApp. Now the authorities in one Indian state are fighting back - by teaching children about fake news. Soutik Biswas reports.

In a state-run secondary school in the sticky coastal city of Kannur in the southern state of Kerala, some 40 students have thronged a classroom for an unusual lesson.

As the uniformed boys and girls in separate rows slide into their seats, there's a question on the projection screen for them to answer: What is fake news?

Students read the answer aloud from another slide.

"Fake news is completely false information, photos or videos, intentionally created and spread, to confuse the public, spread mass panic, provoke violence and get attention."

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The horror story inside an Indian children's home

  • 11 August 2018
  • From the section India
Image teary eyed Image copyright NIKITA DESHPANDE

"The sun rose very slowly for us every morning," a girl rescued from a shelter home in India's Bihar state told an investigator recently. She had cupped her hands together forming a small bowl shape and smiled wanly.

Daylight bled easily into dusk outside, but inside the dank, windowless home, the nights seemed to be without end.

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What happens to India's four million 'stateless' people?

  • 30 July 2018
  • From the section India
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Media captionLiving in limbo: Assam's four million unwanted

Questions of identity and citizenship have long vexed a vast number of people living in Assam, one of India's most multi-ethnic states.

Among the residents are Bengali- and Assamese-speaking Hindus, and a medley of tribespeople.

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Was India's most famous hug an ambush?

  • 26 July 2018
  • From the section India
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Media captionIndian PM Narendra Modi is startled after his political rival hugs him

Since he swept to power four years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has usually hugged the headlines. A strategically tactile leader, Mr Modi has freely embraced world leaders, while preferring to keep a distance at home.

Last week, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress, turned the tables on Mr Modi. After making a biting speech targeting Mr Modi's performance during a no-confidence motion - which the opposition lost - the 48-year-old dynast surprised his political foe in the parliament with a giant unexpected hug.

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The countries where women have more bank accounts than men

  • 13 June 2018
  • From the section India
A customer enters a branch of the Security Bank in Manila on January 14, 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women have accounts in Philippines to remit money and manage household finances

There are just six countries in the world where more women than men have bank accounts - Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, and the Philippines.

This according to the World Bank's latest Global Findex report on how adults in more than 140 countries access accounts, make payments, save, borrow and manage risk. More than 500 million adults - or 69% of the adults, up from 51% in 2011 - have a "bank account" at a brick-and-mortar bank or a mobile money provider today.

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How Shelley's Indian 'disciple' changed copyright law

  • 31 May 2018
  • From the section India
Subramania Bharati and his wife Chellama
Image caption Subramania Bharati, who wrote in the Tamil language, was a literary colossus

In March 1949, the government in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu acquired the work of one of India's greatest poets. It was the first time in the world that the state had taken over the copyright of a writer and put his writings in the public domain.

Subramania Bharati, who wrote in the Tamil language, was a literary colossus. Influenced by the Romantic poets, the radical poet used the pen-name "Shelley-dasan", meaning disciple of Shelly. Much later, inspired by Walt Whitman, he wrote prose poems, possibly for the first time in an Indian language. He was also interested in haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry form.

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Inequality in India can be seen from outer space

  • 27 May 2018
  • From the section India
India night lights Image copyright NASA
Image caption Most of India is dark at night because there is little economic activity going on

Are night lights on earth captured by satellites from outer space a good way to measure inequality?

Economists Praveen Chakravarty and Vivek Dehejia certainly believe so. They acquired images grabbed by satellites from the US Air Force Defence Meteorological Satellite Programme. These satellites circle the earth 14 times a day and record lights from the earth's surface at night with sensors. They superimposed a map depicting India's districts on their images, allowing them to develop a unique data set of luminosity values, by district and over time.

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Why bribes usually don't buy votes for politicians

  • 22 May 2018
  • From the section India
A general view showing BJP supporter wearing a mask of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen during the Bhartya Janta Party (BJP) public rally meeting ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election, in Bangalore, India, 08 May 2018. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Elections in India have become intensely competitive

What prompts a voter in India to cast her ballot in favour of a candidate? Typically, her choice would be influenced by the candidate's identity, ideology, caste, performance or ethnicity.

Cash bribes to voters are also widely thought to influence the voting choices of the poorest and most vulnerable voters. Days before the recent polls in the southern state of Karnataka, authorities uncovered cash and "other inducements" worth more than $20m (£14.85m) in what was described as a "record-breaking" haul. One report claimed that workers had been transferring money to bank accounts of voters who had promised to vote for their candidate, and even pledged to pay more later if their candidate won.

Read full article Why bribes usually don't buy votes for politicians

Why did an Indian minister just go to North Korea?

  • 17 May 2018
  • From the section India
VK Singh Image copyright AFP
Image caption VK Singh is a junior foreign minister and former Indian army chief

On Thursday, India revealed that it had sent a minister to North Korea for the first time in two decades.

The last time an Indian minister visited North Korea was in September 1998. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, information and broadcasting minister of the then ruling BJP-led alliance, had flown to Pyongyang to attend a film festival.

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Why India's Narendra Modi remains star BJP vote-catcher

  • 15 May 2018
  • From the section India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) public rally meeting ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election, in Bangalore, India, 08 May 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Narendra Modi remains the BJP's biggest vote catcher

Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP continues to expand its political footprint relentlessly. His party has emerged as the single-largest in the southern state of Karnataka, and has staked its claim to run what would be its 21st of India's 29 states.

Two other parties - Congress and the regional Janata Dal (Secular) - provided a last-minute twist by announcing a post-poll alliance which they say gives them a rightful claim to power. Between them they mopped up 114 seats, to the BJP's 104. The governor now has to take a call on who to ask to form a government.

Read full article Why India's Narendra Modi remains star BJP vote-catcher