Last week, a number of Indian media outlets reported about a study by Harvard University, that lauded the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government for its handling of the migrant crisis during the first few months of the nationwide lockdown in India. The reports, however, failed to provide names of the author (or authors), neither did they provide any details of the study itself.
A joint investigation on the study by BOOM and FactChecker revealed that the news reports were grossly misleading - the study was conducted by a Gurgaon-based institute known as Institute for Competitiveness (IFC), and not by Harvard University. While IFC is an affiliate of Harvard Business School's Microeconomics of Competitiveness affiliate network, Harvard did not have any involvement in the study. Furthermore, the IFC study did not praise the UP government's handling of the crisis; rather, it analysed the handling by the Adityanath-led government, and made observations and suggestions on what was done, and what could be improved.
BOOM and FactChecker spoke to Amit Kapoor, Honorary Chairman at IFC, who dismissed the claims about it being a 'Harvard study' and praising the UP government's efforts. "Our institute is an affiliate of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (ISC) at Harvard Business School (HBS), and nowhere in the report – or otherwise – have we attributed the study to Harvard. So, it is inaccurate to refer to a study by a MOC affiliate as a 'Harvard study'", Kapoor said.
"The study is only a documentation of the efforts by UP using an analytical framework. Since it is not a comparative study, it cannot be said to be praising any entity. The study also provides recommendations to the UP government on future pandemic management," he added.
The Migrant Worker Crisis
On March 25, the Indian government ordered a nationwide lockdown, initially for 21 days, but eventually extended till May 31. The lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just hours before it came into effect - causing mass panic around the country and eventually shutting down businesses and factories almost instantly. This led to an immediate loss of jobs for daily wage earners across the country, most of them being migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
This led to many workers and their families attempting to make it back to their villages to sustain themselves, sometimes 1000s of kilometres away, mostly on foot - with a number of reported deaths due to starvation, fatigue, police brutality and suicide among others. This event has been termed as the migrant worker crisis or simply the migrant crisis.
What The Media Reported
The claim of a 'Harvard' study praising the handling of the migrant crisis was made by government handles and multiple media outlets.
News outlets such as Hindustan Times, MensXP, the Free Press Journal and the Jagran also carried it under their own bylines. They cited a spokesperson for the UP government to make the claims, and called the handling of the crisis by the state government as "adroit" and "efficient".
Times Now and Swarajya carried a byline by news wire agency IANS, who had earlier tweeted out the story as well - tagging Harvard University. BJP leader Vineet Goenka also shared the claim, while calling out the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government for not taking care of migrant workers who left for UP.
Find the archive of IANS' tweet here.
No, It Is Not A Harvard Study
BOOM and FactChecker accessed a copy of the study, and found that it was conducted by the Institute of Competitiveness, which is part of an affiliate network of Harvard Business School (HBS) called Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MOC), and not by Harvard University itself.
MOC is a course platform designed by Michael Porter at HBS' Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness; an MOC network affiliate has access to teaching materials, course curriculum, notes, taped lectures and lecture notes.
There are 121 institutions who are a part of this network as of 2019, and the Institute for Competitiveness is one among four such institutes in India.
Kapoor also mentioned that the report does not mention Harvard Business School, or include its logo in anyway. "We have not used the HBS logo on the report. It is a logo of the Microeconomics of Competitiveness affiliate network, of which we are a part. However, the logo would be removed to create the right messaging. Also, the study has not been released in the public domain by us," he said.
What Does The Study Mention?
Speaking on the methodology behind the study, Kapoor said, "In the study, we have assessed UP's COVID efforts on three parameters: Migrant Support, Health Infrastructure, and Livelihood Opportunities. The study is a documentation of UP's efforts since the pandemic began and is an effort to provide learnings for similar crises in the future."
Upon going through the report, we found several observations made on the UP government's handling of the crisis.
The report says that a total of 35,28,227 migrants have returned to the state of Uttar Pradesh since March 24, 2020. Out of these, 99.54 per cent have moved back from other states in the country while the other 0.54 per cent have returned from other countries.
The majority of UP migrants were living in Maharashtra (35.91%) and Gujarat (20.42%), followed by the neighbouring states of Delhi (9.23%), Haryana (7.68%) and Punjab (8.52%). From 35,28,227 migrants, 16,129 returned to the state from other countries during 24th March 2020 and 3rd July 2020. Out of these,( 90%) 14,517 came from Nepal while the rest came from different parts of the world including Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia etc.
While there were efforts taken to bring back migrant workers through Shramik trains and other means of transportation, ground reports during the lockdown period had also revealed dire situations faced by workers returning to UP. Here are some reported instances of callousness shown by the Uttar Pradesh authorities and officials towards migrant workers during the crisis:
- At least 25 migrant labourers died after a truck rammed into the lorry they were travelling in, on Saturday morning. The incident happened around 3:30 am in Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh. Find the report here.
- A group of migrant workers in Bareilly were made to squat on a road and then sprayed with chlorine-mixed water. Find the report here
- Buses were provided only after the migrant workers started walking long distances back home. The provision of buses by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi had also flared a political bickering between BJP-led UP government and Congress. Find the report here.
Healthcare system of UP
The report says that Uttar Pradesh has only 10 healthcare centres per lakh of population, the 7th lowest in the country. Similarly when it comes to the number of hospital beds and government doctors (per lakh population), UP falls in the bottom five states of the country.
Concluding on page 70, the study states, "Although, the Uttar Pradesh government has taken steps to build economic opportunities for them closer to home using existing schemes as well as by signing new MoUs, it is important to develop a long-term employment generation plan. The plan should be based on existing strengths of the state as well as the skill set of the labour force".
While the study looks into how the UP government handled the crisis, it did not praise the handling of the crisis by the government.
BOOM and FactChecker also reached out to Navneet Sehgal, an IAS officer and Additional Chief Secretary of the UP government, for a comment on the matter. While he did not wish to discuss the matter with us, he directed one of his team members to provide us a copy of the study.
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