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LOL, not again! Indians are like this only...


Oct 17, 2018
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Why does this keep happening in India? :omghaha:

Indian teen finds fame as NASA panelist, but social media fact check claims ANI report is fake
ANI report says Diksha Shinde was selected by NASA as a panelist for its MSI Fellowships Virtual Panel, but people point out discrepancies on Twitter. ANI stands by report.
Revathi Krishnan2 December, 2021
Fourteen-year-old Diksha Shinde who, according to ANI, has been selected by NASA to be a panelist for a fellowship | ANI
Fourteen-year-old Diksha Shinde who, according to ANI, has been selected by NASA to be a panelist for a fellowship | ANI
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New Delhi: Fourteen-year-old Diksha Shinde suddenly found fame after news reports claimed she had been selected as a panelist by NASA for its Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Fellowships Virtual Panel.

Wire agency ANI had Thursday reported that Shinde was selected by the US space agency based on her work on blackholes and God.

“I wrote a theory on black holes & God. It was accepted by NASA after three attempts. They asked me to write articles for their website,” Shinde told ANI.

She also said that she worked 12 hours-a-day on her research.

The wire agency reported that Shinde would attend a conference in October, for which NASA would bear all the expenses.

The MSI fellowship by NASA seeks student-authored research proposals from minority serving institutions in STEM programs. Proposals for this year’s fellowship were due on 24 May.

The 14-year-old was hailed by many on social media, but several also found the claims dubious.

Also read: ‘It’s like science fiction come to life’: NASA engineers tell how Mars missions are pulled off

‘Someone has created a scam’
Among them was Dr Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History.

Dr Faherty’s name features on a certificate purportedly awarded by NASA to Shinde, an image of which surfaced on social media. The image of the ‘certificate of nomination’ was being shared on LinkedIn by an account belonging to ‘Dr Diksha K. Shinde’. The bio for ‘Dr Shinde’ identifies her as a ‘scientific researcher at NASA’.

When ThePrint checked the LinkedIn profile for ‘Dr K Shinde’, it was unavailable.

In a Twitter post Friday, Faherty said: “I don’t know why my name got tied into this but someone has created a scam using a 14 yr old girl in India and her dream of being a scientist. If Diksha really has a passion for Astronomy she can reach out to me and I’ll find some legitimate pathways for her passion (sic).”

ThePrint contacted Faherty via email but did not receive a response till the time of publishing this report.

Faherty wasn’t the only one to question the news. Others raised doubts over the authenticity of the certificate.

Among the red flags raised was the fact that screenshots of an email correspondence, allegedly between NASA and Shinde, show the mail is not marked to an official ID and Shinde’s email ID includes letters in uppercase.

Communication to Diksha Shinde of Aurangabad from NASA for her participation as a panelist on NASA's MSI Fellowships Virtual panel. Also attached is a notice of acknowledgment of her academic paper pic.twitter.com/XQnkQl6Rdw
— ANI (@ANI) August 20, 2021
‘Not fake’: ANI stands by story
Political commentator Shefali Vaidya asked ANI’s Editor-in-Chief Smita Prakash about the veracity of the story.

In a Twitter post, Vaidya said: “The official MSI Fellowship website states that the candidates must be US nationals/citizens and must hold a bachelor’s degree. Is Diksha Shinde either?”

Prakash responded that the story wasn’t fake and the agency was standing by it.

According to NASA’s website, to be eligible, candidates have to be American citizens or a “national” who holds a bachelor’s degree earned before 31 August 2021. Candidates must also be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral degree program by 1 September 2021, and must be intending to pursue a research-based masters or PhD program in a NASA-relevant field.

The story is not fake. We stand by it.
— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) August 20, 2021
Following this, several news publications that posted the story took down their reports citing “factual inaccuracies”.

This included Mint that said the “agency story has been taken down pending review”.

Nasa-related hoaxes and scams are a recurring theme in India
NEW DELHI - A 14-year-old girl from Maharashtra being selected as a panellist to review proposals and applications for fellowships with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is a feel-good story that caught the fancy of many in India last month.

Media outlets reported on the girl's achievement in glowing terms and the local member of Parliament even congratulated her. But the jubilation was short-lived, an all-too-familiar and disappointing denouement involving several other Nasa-related claims in India.

Alert social media users reported many loopholes in the girl's claims - including alleged fake certificates - and found that the journal that had accepted to publish her paper titled "We Live In A Black Hole?" was a predatory one. A predatory journal is one that publishes papers by charging authors but without reviewing articles for quality. It has yet to publish the girl's paper.

When Boom, an Indian fact-checking website, reached out to Nasa, it said the teen was selected as a panellist through a third-party service but her selection was based on false information about her background. The agency added it is reviewing the process of verifying potential panellists' backgrounds.

When The Straits Times reached out to the girl's family, her mother said the family stands by their claims and that they are shielding their daughter from any further public interaction given the stress she had been exposed to. ST has chosen to protect the minor's privacy and not use her name.

The mother refused to share any of her research papers and added that they could not afford to pay the journal the fee it had asked to publish the paper.

"She will shine and prove everyone wrong in another two years," the girl's mother told ST, adding that she had been paid US$675 (S$908) from an American bank account for her work for Nasa.

There have been several other Nasa-related controversies in India in the last few years.

In December 2019, a story about a 14-year-old boy from Odisha being selected for a Nasa contest duped many. The boy, who came from an economically weak background, made a drone that reportedly could land at inaccessible spots. A local politician even gave the boy's family 50,000 rupees (S$922) to support his travel to the United States. It turned out the 'selection' was based on a forged email sent by another student.

Dr Aniket Sule, chairman of the Public Outreach & Education Committee of the Astronomical Society of India, said these scams recur because children genuinely interested in astronomy have few opportunities in India to make a name for themselves.

"There are many people who are looking for such opportunities and if they don't get one, they make up such stories," he told ST, adding that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) should do more school-level outreach.

"Many of these students do not see ISRO as an aspirational place where they desire to be," Dr Sule said. "Going to Nasa or working for it, on the other hand, has captured the imagination of many more kids."

This popularity has also led to instances where contests for students are organised charging participants a hefty fee, with winners often promised a privileged trip to Nasa when all they do is visit its Visitor Centers that are accessible to the public.

"Nasa is not bothered to invite kids like this. It is just middlemen exploiting gullible parents to make a fast buck," said Dr Priya Hasan, a professor of physics and astronomy, who runs Shristi Astronomy that familiarises children with the subject. "You just say 'Nasa-Nasa' and people come for it!"

In 2019, parents of a school in Ludhiana, in Punjab state, filed a police complaint against a travel agent couple and their son after they took money from around 148 students, promising to send them on a trip to Nasa. Parents paid 280,000 rupees per student but the accused failed to arrange a visa, and refused to return the money.

Other perpetrators of such scams also thrive using Nasa's cover. A father-son duo was arrested in the capital, Delhi, in 2018 for duping people out of millions of rupees by luring them into investing in what they called a 'rice puller', a "special device" they wanted to sell to Nasa. There have been similar scams in China and Malaysia, among other countries.

India has also seen long-standing false claims around an incredibly high number of Indian-origin employees at Nasa; in 2019, one such viral message erroneously claimed 58 per cent of its employees were Indian. There are also recurring dubious claims of Sanskrit being the most appropriate language for writing computer algorithms and of a certain "Mission Sanskrit" at Nasa, something that gets reiterated by top Indian politicians as well.

The agency has served as a cloak for another viral hoax. A purported glittering satellite image of India from Nasa is resuscitated every year around Deepavali with the claim that it shows Indians celebrating the "Festival of Lights". The photo is actually a composite image that uses satellite photos from the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and shows multiple years of lighting to indicate population growth.

Countering this doctored claim, Nasa released a real satellite image of India around the festival - a far more subdued one - in 2012. "In reality, any extra light produced during Diwali (Deepavali) is so subtle that it is likely imperceptible when observed from space," it added.

Dr Hasan called for a greater focus on enabling people, especially parents, to detect fake news that can be done easily in most cases. "When you get something on WhatsApp or some other source, how gullible are you? Do you actually check it before you start declaring it to the world?" she added. "That's something we need to work on."

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India: 'Nasa scientist' exposed as fraudster
29 October 2014

A man who became famous in India after claiming to be a Nasa scientist has admitted he made the whole thing up, it's been reported.

Arun P. Vijayakumar, 27, hit the headlines after saying he'd been selected as a research scientist for the US space agency, even telling the media that Nasa relaxed its citizenship requirements "as it was so impressed with his knowledge and patriotism", the Deccan Chronicle reports. His Nasa work would involve exploring "extraterrestrial elements with the use of remote sensing", he told The Hindu website in an interview last month. He also claimed to be studying for a PhD at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

But now Mr Vijayakumar, from Kerala in south-west India, admits none of it was true, including claims that he had met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was busted by a Facebook group known as the Netizen Police, which investigates suspected online fraud in conjunction with the police, Manorama Online reports. "Police officers said that the intention of Arun was only to gain fame and that the details were being released now in order to ensure that he does not come out with similar claims in future," the website says.

Doubt over Nasa boy exam triumph
Wednesday, 23 February, 2005
Saurabh Singh

Saurabh Singh would not speak to the press on Wednesday
The Indian prime minister has cancelled a meeting with a village boy who was reported to have won an international examination organised by Nasa.
It had been widely reported that 17-year-old Saurabh Singh had beaten 200,000 students in the examination.

The reports said President APJ Kalam had passed the same test.

However, Mr Kalam's office has denied that he had ever taken the exam. Nasa officials say they are unaware of any such exam.

The news of the boy's examination success had been reported widely in the Indian media and on the BBC News website.

No comments to press

Doubts about the authenticity of the International Scientist Discovery examination appeared on the Indian website Rediff.com on Wednesday, shortly before Saurabh Singh was due to meet President Kalam in Delhi and be congratulated on his achievement.

Later on Wednesday, Nasa spokeswoman Debbie Rahn, who has worked for the agency for more than 30 years, told the BBC News website: "I have been unable to confirm that such an exam exists. I have checked all the appropriate offices in Nasa."

The president's spokesman, SM Khan, told the BBC that, contrary to widespread reports, President Kalam had never sat for such an examination.

Journalists were eagerly waiting to talk to the boy and his father after their 10-minute meeting with the president.

But Saurabh and his father refused to talk to the press and left in a car.

The two were also supposed to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later on Wednesday.

But the prime minister's press adviser Sanjaya Baru said that the meeting has been cancelled after the president's statement.

Saurabh Singh comes from the district of Ballia, a poor area of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The Uttar Pradesh chief secretary VK Mittal told the BBC that the Ballia administrator had been asked to collect "all papers and certificates" of the "examination" from Sourabh.

"There is reasonable doubt about Sourabh's performance now," Mr Mittal said.

A teacher at Saurabh's school Hema Chandra in Ballia said that a local newspaper had first reported Saurabh's exam success.

"We contacted Saurabh immediately. He confirmed he had topped the examination."

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