Yuva - India

Misinformation during the COVID crisis

During the grim times when the nation is battling a health crisis, it is crucial to verify any piece of ‘information’ you come across. After all, misinformation or lies which are being peddled brazenly on social and news media can trigger paranoia hands down; which is something everyone would surely like to ward off in times of crisis. But what if individuals of utmost importance like bureaucrats post lie related to a pandemic without even finding it important to substantiate the claim they make? Can civil servants afford to do something of this sort?

On 26th April 2021, Goa Chronicle Editor-in-chief, Savio Rodrigues took to Twitter to talk about how people from the left-liberal cabal and western media continues to target India over the ongoing COVID-19 crisis; and how they are using tools like photos of cremation grounds to ‘highlight’ the so-called macabre Indian scenario by stating that too many people are losing their lives to the deadly virus. To counter this argument, he shared an image that showed the number of deaths in each affected country across the globe which revealed that it’s the USA that has witnessed the highest number of deaths and the figure in India is nowhere near that.

To this tweet, replied Siddhartha Verma, who is a civil servant from the 2015 batch, working in the IRTS (Indian Railways Traffic Service) and belongs to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He tweeted, “Do you seriously believe in the numbers? The actual numbers are much more. Let us focus on getting help for our people and strengthening our systems rather than countering Western media and their narratives. This will not save our families and friends who are struggling.”

Later on, when he was asked about whether he intended to say that we have more deaths in India and if he had any proof which could show the real numbers, he replied, “There are enough reports from Lucknow by credible journalists putting forth actual numbers taken from Lucknow Municipal Corporation and how they differ greatly from state numbers. If you are doing your job, I’m sure you know about it.”

After Mr. Verma made such claims stating that the Governments across India are manipulating the numbers of death, Savio emphasized on the rationale of him making such claims and asked him to back his statements with facts and data. To this, Siddhartha had the audacity to say, “The burden of proof does not lie with me. I just know that my friends and fellow citizens are suffering and the only focus we should have is helping them. A brief visit to any crematorium would punch a hole in the numbers, I suggest you do it”.

 

To this response, Savio reiterated his viewpoint and asked him to share not only the data but also the details of the ‘credible’ journalists he talked about. The 2015 batch civil servant was also asked to reveal whether he was talking about the Centre or certain State Governments in particular. When Savio did not receive a reliable reply to his questions, he started tagging authorities like the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Minister of Health, Dr. Harshwardhan, dared and requested them to take a stock of the statements made by the IRTS official and throw some light on the reality.

 

Once the authorities were tagged and Twitter users were anticipating some colossal data to fathom the reality as claimed by Mr. Verma, the Lucknow-based bureaucrat deleted his Twitter account! This seemed to be nothing but a lily-livered move to escape the authorities and the scrutiny of the people witness this chain of tweets between him and Savio. Let alone providing actual data, he simply vanished in thin air as if nothing had happened. After all, these were not claims which could have been steered clear of.

To dig deeper into the matter and question Siddhartha Verma on the things he said and their authenticity, one tried to contact him and saw that he had enabled his Twitter ID once again but this time, his profile was locked. One sent him a friend request without a delay. Meanwhile, one sent him a direct message on Facebook so that things don’t remain murky anymore. While waiting for any kind of response, one noticed in no time that Mr. Verma had blocked her on Facebook without even addressing the message. Later on, it was also realized that he had not accepted the Twitter request as well. And this happened twice!

What inference can be made out of this incident as one who is found to be spreading misinformation or falsities revolving around COVID-19 will be prosecuted and the individual’s property will be seized?

Stay home, stay safe, and stay alert!

Sonakshi Datta

Intern, Goa Chronicle

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

#COVID-19, #COVID-19 Crisis, #Uttar Pradesh, #COVID-19 Lies, #Yogi Adityanath, #Dr. Harshwardhan, #Siddhartha Verma, #Civil Servant

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