With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise ban on the Rs 500 and 1000 notes last week, the country has fallen a bit into disarray. Some deem the ban a ‘necessity’ to fight the evils of black money hoarding as well as a counter-measure to tackle the growth of espionage, arms smuggling, drugs, and even terrorism. Others aren’t nearly as optimistic about the outcome of the measure.
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Regardless of these stark differences, most agree that in the short-term at least, chaos has ensued across the country. Reports of citizens standing in lines outside banks and ATMs for hours on end have abounded social media.
Considering the impact of the government’s move, citizens have taken it upon themselves to flood social media to help ‘inform’ others about the ongoing situation. Every other day, a WhatsApp forward or a Facebook status will incite rounds of panic, to say nothing of the questionable tweets that flooded Twitter.
In this era of social media, masses tend to believe anything they read. Although social media is a great medium to spread credible news quickly, it also fuels the spread of misleading rumours.
We’ve scouted various social media platforms and identified the most popular rumours that have sprung since Modi’s radical announcement, and attempted to debunk most of them based on credible sources.
A few days into the currency ban, rumours spread like wildfire about an apparent salt shortage due to “poor cash flow”. These also claimed that the price of salt per kilogram was now increasing to between Rs 200 and 400 in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai, and Delhi. Panic-stricken, citizens began to clamour to buy salt at normal rates before it ‘ran out’, crowding markets and ensuing brawls. The crisis reached such a stage that a woman died in Kanpur after slipping into a drain whilst trying to battle through the large crowd.
According to DNA, Daljit Chaudhary, the UP ADG (Law and Order) has assured the public that there is no record of salt shortage in the state or across the country, adding that the government would take strict action against those caught spreading such claims.
SBK Singh, Special Commissioner Law & Order, North (Delhi Police), also confirmed that the salt shortage is, indeed, a rumour. He added that the area is being patrolled extensively by Station House Officers (SHOs) to dispel these rumours and inform citizens.
Soon after Modi announced the demonetisation plan, a message started making the rounds on WhatsApp and several social media platforms that the newly launched Rs 2000 notes contained a tracking chip. Apparently referred to as the ‘micro nano GPS chip’, it supposedly helped track individual notes by the use of satellites. Additionally, it was stated that the technology could possibly detect Rs 2000 notes even from 120 meters below the ground.
The Hindu reported that the RBI dismissed the existence of any such tracking chips, adding that such technology does not exist anywhere in the world.
“The only security features of the Rs 2,000 note are the ones we have mentioned in our releases regarding the note. The release is also on our Twitter account and it does not mention any chip,” said an official from the Reserve Bank of India.
According to The Economic Times, the CPI(M) party in West Bengal alleged that the BJP's state unit deposited Rs 1 crore at a nationalised bank, all in Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes, hours before the Prime Minister declared its ban. They insinuated that the BJP party in West Bengal were well-aware of the government’s impeding decision, granting them enough time to make full value of the currency before the appointed dates. Sujan Chakraborty, CPM MLA and Left Front Legislative Party (LFLP) leader in the state Assembly, posed the question to the media, “If BJP leaders in Bengal had got the tip-off about currency ban, then why were common people kept in the dark by the Union government?”
However, the same report contained the voice of a senior BJP leader who said that depositing money in the banks, without a pre-described reason, was not illegal. According to him, the money (Rs 3 crores) had been collected in donations over a period of time and was being deposited by the party in different phases. Also, the fact that they would have to declare their deposit amounts to the tax authorities either way makes this allegation weak.
Lines piling up in front of ATMs and banks have been flashing across mainstream media channels for a few days now. This weekend, however, a rumour spread through social media regarding an apparent stampede outside an ATM in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, where it claimed that four people had been injured.
However, according to the Deccan Chronicle, senior police officers from the district were soon to calm the situation before it got out of control. Dismissing the rumour, DCP Madhur Verma (North branch) in a series of tweets said, “There is no stampede outside any Bank or ATM in Chandni Chowk. Please don't spread or come under the influence of any rumour! We will also be taking cognisance of all social media accounts which are spreading rumours. It's an offence under section 505 of IPC.” Accordingly, the district police have doubly tightened security in the streets outside ATMs and banks. At some places, even RAF jawans have been deployed to keep the crowds in control.
Do you know of any more demonetisation rumours doing the rounds? Let us know in the comments below!