DJ Showcase: (20 January 2014) is back with a fairly good data journalism story once again. Though the analysis is by another site,, which has created an infographic depicting living costs worldwide for expats. Of the 119 nations featured, India, Nepal and Pakistan have the lowest living costs, while Switzerland, Norway and Venezuela have the highest.

Yes, you read it right. Despite all the inflation talks, India is still one of the cheapest places on earth. Here’a s link to the story and below is the link to the infographic.


And you thought it’s BJP that builds all the roads?

Its supporters claim a BJP rule is the best bet for rapid infrastructure development; its critics say it does so to “show off” its achievement at the expense of social sectors. But both tend to agree that BJP governments do build infrastructure as a priority.

That could be one of the biggest myths, if one goes by real data, rather than perceptions. According to the recently released Infrastructure Statistics 2014 report by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI), five out of the top seven large states where the road density is maximum have never been ruled by the BJP. From the rest two, UP was ruled by BJP long back while Punjab has been ruled by its ally, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Here are the states with the best road infrastructure, as measured by road density (kilometer road length per 1000 square km area).


The data about the states with lowest road density reveal a completely different picture, though. From the seven large states with lowest road density in India, three (Gujarat, MP, and Chhatisgarh) are being ruled by BJP for long. Three more, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan have been ruled  by BJP and others alternatively. Only Jammu & Kashmir, a largely hilly state, has not been ruled by the party ever.


As they say, there’s three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the facts.



Which state is India’s biggest drinking state?

Data journalism is journalism first—and last. Basic principles of good journalism applies to data journalism as well. One of those fundamental principles is to check credibility of information. It starts with knowing where to get the most authentic information on a particular topic. Yes, even in the days of Google.

This story in The Hindu,  by Rukmini S, one of the very, very few practicing data journalists in India, beautifully illustrates that.

The topic is alcohol consumption in different states. And the context is Kerala’s decision to move towards prohibition. Some basic research, as the euphemism goes for Google search, convinced the media that Kerala is indeed the top per capita alcohol consuming state in India. And what can you beat it? The top drinking state heading towards prohibition…

But is Kerala really India’s most drinking state? It took a real data journalist to ask that question and bust the myth.

As Kerala takes the first steps towards prohibition, here’s a question: is Kerala really India’s biggest drinker? The media sure seems to think so; here’s the Times of India, saying so today (but giving no source), The Indian Expresssaid it in 2008 but the source study is nowhere on the internet and the Economist said so in 2013citing a Kerala-based advocacy group director. Various other reports cite Kerala’s 2008 Economic Review but this isn’t available online either.

Anyone who has any interest in tracking consumption pattern in India would know that the biggest agency that tracks that info is National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) under Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, through its various “rounds” of surveys. Rukmini used that data to prove that it is not Kerala but Andhra Pradesh which is the biggest drinker.

Despite being a great reminder of what should not be passed off as data journalism, the story fails to excite. A simple and direct headline like “And you thought Kerala is the biggest drinker” could have been far more direct than a text-bookish headline like “India’s biggest drinkers.”

Nevertheless, it assures. That data journalism in India is in good hands.

How Indian states are doing in terms of HDI…in one chart

With Narendra Modi making governance the central election issue in the 2014 General Elections, the debate, after long time, focused on development. While the BJP leader and current prime minister highlighted key economic parameters such as investment, industrial growth, power generation, per capita income etc, his critics pointed out to relatively poor performance in social parameters, measured globally by United Nation Development Program (UNDP)’s human development index (HDI). With two of the world’s most well-known economists, Jagdish Bhagwati and Amrtya Sen joining the debate on what constitutes good governance, the global community took notice.

As it is, truth is rarely black and white. While Modi made some tall claims about economic parameters, most notably by highlighting absolute parameters (which have always been higher for Gujarat, even before Modi) and not the delta during his period, his critics, while pointing to HDI figures did just the reverse. They chose to ignore the fact that Gujarat still was among the upper half of the Median when it came to HDI; it was only when one compares it with its ranking in terms of economic parameters that it looks pale.

The chart here shows absolute HDI 2007-08 (latest available) on the x-axis and growth between 1999-2000 and 2007-08 on the y-axis.

HDI in India

Without considering India’s overall performance in HDI, which remains low, the pure comparison among states, shows some definite trends.  In the chart, the lines show the median values and not the average values.

  1. The overall news is good, with most low HDI states such as Odisha, Bihar, UP, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh registering good growths. Expectedly, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Harya and Gujarat show a lower growth.
  2. Only one area that clearly falls in Quardrant I: North East.  It is, by definition, the only star, though Karnataka and Tamil Nadu too have good performance.
  3. Kerala, with an HDI that is ahead of Russia, Malaysia, Kuwait and Saudi Arbaia, has a growth slightly lower but it is still a good performance, considering how poorly the other two high HDI states have fared in terms of their growth. Delhi is actually the only entity to show a negative growth while Goa too shows a sluggish growth.
  4. Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, two younger states, clearly outshine everyone else in terms of growth. Uttarakhand is fast moving to Quardrant I.
  5. Rajasthan is the only state that is clearly falling behind. West Bengal too is not catching up with the rest of the Eastern brigade such as Bihar, Odisha, NE, Assam and Jharkhand which are clearly on the growth track now.
  6. Modi’s Gujarat, is clearly below the median growth and falls on the median line of absolute HDI. With a position of 11 among 23 states/UTs (NE is treated as one), it is clearly not a good showing. But it is not absolutely pathetic as many claim.