WebQoof Recap: Gadkari on COVID Origin; Plan for Exiting Lockdown

Here’s a quick round-up of the WhatsApp forwards and fake tweets that misled the public this week. 

Updated
India
5 min read
Here’s a quick round-up of the WhatsApp forwards and fake tweets that misled the public this week. 
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From Union Minister Nitin Gadkari claiming that coronavirus is an artificial virus to a viral forward insinuated to be the Indian government’s roadmap for exiting the lockdown in five phases, this week saw a barrage of misinformation on social media.

Here's a quick round-up of fake forwards that misled the public this week.

1. Gadkari Says Corona an Artificial Virus, But Where’s The Evidence?

The origin of the novel coronavirus is an oft-debated topic and many have endorsed the theory that it was artificially created in a lab.

In an interview to NDTV on Wednesday, 13 May, Union Minister and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari joined the bandwagon and said that the novel coronavirus is not a natural virus and people will have to learn the art of living with it.

“We have to understand the art of living with corona. This is not a natural virus. It is an artificial virus and now many countries in the whole world – they are researching on it for a vaccine.”

However, while many top US politicians have also lent their support to the ‘lab theory’, WHO has stuck to its original position, confidently stating that data studied so far suggests that the virus has a natural animal origin.

WebQoof Recap: Gadkari on COVID Origin; Plan for Exiting Lockdown
(Photo Courtesy: WHO/Screenshot)

Moreover, this theory has also been disputed in an analysis by a group of researchers, which was published by Nature Medicine in March, who said that SARS-CoV-2 is not a ‘laboratory construct’ or a ‘purposefully manipulated virus’.

Dr Anthony Tony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a recent interview to National Geographic, said that he doesn’t “entertain an alternate theory.”

Read the full story here.

2. Old Video Used to Claim DMK Leader Assaulted Lady Doctor on Duty

A viral video showing a man kicking and physically assaulting a woman is being shared amid the coronavirus pandemic with the claim that the man seen in the video is DMK leader Selvakumar.

WebQoof Recap: Gadkari on COVID Origin; Plan for Exiting Lockdown
(Photo: Video Screengrab/puthiyathalaimurai.com)

The claim shared along with the video reads: “Tamilnadu DMK party Leader Selva Kumar kicked Lady Doctor on duty. Forward this Video to all group until he will be punished (sic)”.

However, we found that the video actually dates back to May 2018 and while the man in the video is indeed DMK leader S Selvakumar, the woman being assaulted in the video is not a doctor but Sathya, the owner of a beauty parlour in Tamil Nadu.

According to an article published by The News Minute, the woman allegedly had financial dealings with Selvakumar and the video captures an arguments over monetary matters that turned violent.

Read the full story here.

3. Cop Extorting Money from Migrant Caught on Cam? No, Video is Old

A video which shows a policeman taking money from women on railway tracks is being shared with the insinuation that the police officer is taking money from migrants who want to return home amid the nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus.

The video is being shared with a message in Hindi which reads, “सरकार मे रेल मंत्री क्य हो रहा ह देश लूतेरे को तातकात suspend करो” [Translation: What is happening in this country, rail minister? Suspend this person.]

An archived version of the post can be found <a href="http://archive.is/wip/SDJEM">here</a>.
An archived version of the post can be found here.
(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)

However, on listening to the audio, we heard people speaking in Gujarati, following which we ran a keyword search on YouTube. This took us to a video from 12 July 2019, uploaded by TV9 Gujarati.

We found that the video actually showed an RPF personnel who was accepting money from women supplying liquor. We also came across a news article which further stated that the RPF personnel was dismissed from service after the incident came to light.

Read the full story here.

4. India’s Roadmap for Exiting Lockdown in 5 Phases? Nope, Not Really

A document which lists the way forward out of the coronavirus lockdown is being widely circulated on social media with the insinuation that this is the Indian government’s plan for exiting the lockdown in five phases.

WebQoof Recap: Gadkari on COVID Origin; Plan for Exiting Lockdown
(Photo: WhatsApp/Screenshot)

The forward then goes on to describe elaborately what activities will and won’t be allowed in each phase and how the lockdown will be lifted gradually.

On running a Google search with keywords, we came across the website of the government of Ireland, which had on 1 May published an elaborate roadmap as their plan for exiting the coronavirus lockdown. We found that the dates mentioned matched the ones in the viral forward.

WebQoof Recap: Gadkari on COVID Origin; Plan for Exiting Lockdown
(Photo: Screenshot)

We then studied a detailed document available on their website, which gave in-depth information about which activities would be allowed during each phase and how those should be carried out and were able to match them exactly to the points mentioned in the viral forward. This made it clear that the forward in circulation was written with reference to the Ireland government’s plan.

The Quint also reached out to the Ministry of Home Affairs which said that there was nothing official about the information. Moreover, the government of India’s official fact-checking body also took to Twitter to bust the same forward as false.

Read the full story here.

5. Overcrowded Train Carries Migrants From Mumbai to WB? Video is Old

A video of an overcrowded train is being shared with a claim that it is carrying migrant workers from Mumbai to West Bengal. In the video, people can be seen sitting on the roof of the train and hanging onto the doors and windows.

The claim shared along with the video reads, “Mumbai to West Bengal Migrant Train – 10/5/2020.”

An archived version of the post can be viewed <a href="https://archive.is/pias9">here</a>.
An archived version of the post can be viewed here.
(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)

A reverse search on the keyframes of the video led us to reports and videos which hinted that the viral video is from Khilkhet in Bangladesh. A Google search with keywords then directed us to the same video, uploaded by a YouTube channel in 2018.

According to the description of the video, it shows a Bishwa Ijtema Munajat Special Train meant to carry devotees who had come to attend the Bishwa Ijtema 2018, one of the biggest annual gatherings of Muslims in Bangladesh in Tongi, Gazipur, Bangladesh.

We were also able to match frames of the video to photos of Khilkhet available on Google Maps and ascertained that the video was indeed from there.

Read the full story here.

You can read all our coronavirus fact-checks here.

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9643651818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

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