In a recent revelation, India’s most widely distributed newspaper, India Today has been called out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s official Twitter account for publishing “incorrect” and “fake” news on the ceremoniously held annual Kumbh Mela congregation in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. On 6th April 2021, the India Today headline claimed: “Kumbh Mela becoming a super-spreader event, hope SOP is followed: Centre”. While the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has affirmed that the Indian government is apprehensive about the possibility of the Kumbh Mela turning into a “super-spreader event” in the near future, the India Today news portal took it one step further and asserted the government’s apprehension as a bold confirmation than a mere possibility.
In recent news, Ayog member, Dr. VK Paul emphasized the need to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) at the Kumbh Mela in response to the question of it possibly becoming a “super-spreader event”. Additionally, Rajesh Bhushan, Health Secretary had confirmed that the Kumbh Mela has been shortened to a duration of one month instead of the traditional three to four months. He has further commented, “As the super spreader events are concerned, the union government almost a month ago issued an SOP, specifically for practices to be adopted in Kumbh and had a long meeting with the state government’s officers.”
The news published by India Today has sparked widespread controversy among Kumbh Mela enthusiasts who had been impatiently awaiting the religious congregation. The event is a part of India’s legacy and each year it witnesses thousands of people, Indians and foreigners alike, flocking together to be a part of the decades-old legacy. The “fake” news managed to create quite a stir amidst increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in India as the nation steps into the second wave of the virulent pandemic. However, it has since been confirmed that the national esteemed daily news outlet has updated the “incorrect” news soon after the allegations surfaced.
The Indian government has been making the nation and its people wary of the risks posed by fake news. In a nation as densely populated as India, with as much cultural diversity, an incident of fake news spreads like wildfire and incites fear and apprehension in the minds of people. The government has been taking ample precautions to combat the spread of fake news on social media as well as hardcopy newspapers. The incident of India Today is but reminder of how the misinterpretation of words and lack of attention to detail can have grave consequences for a diversely populated nation, especially during such a historic crisis such as the ongoing pandemic.