Rajat Sharma

How a Bihar minister was instrumental in circulating fake news

Rajat Sharma Aaj Ki Baat 4th May 2018

Aaj Ki Baat 4th May 2018

On Thursday evening, TV news channels showed visuals of an overturned passenger bus in flames in Motihari, Bihar, alongwith news that 27 out of the 32 passengers inside the bus had perished. What was the source? Bihar’s minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav, who cited ‘local sources’ and gave out this figure. Most of the new channes flashed this death toll and the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Bihar sent out tweets condoling the deaths. A two-minute silence was observed at a meeting where CM Nitish Kumar was present, and the state government announced compensation.

Late in the night, it turned out that the death toll given out was false. There were hardly 13 passengers inside the bus, and all of them had escaped death. Meanwhile, another Bihar minister Nand Kishore Yadav blamed the media for giving out this figure. The fact is that the earlier minister had hurriedly given out the death toll figure, without verifying it. The minister did not wait for the final report and gave out the death toll figure.

On visual and digital media, the death toll was first given out at 27, it was then reduced to 12, and at around 8 pm, it was reported that six persons had died. I did not share this news on Aaj Ki Baat that night, because of doubts about the veracity of the death toll figure. I can understand the compulsions of the Prime Minister and Bihar Chief Minister, who went on Twitter, to offer their condolences. With the political temperature rising nowadays, the opposition could have blamed them for being insensitive, if they had not reacted fast.

On the whole, this development shows a mirror to the entire system within which leaders and bureaucrats function. Ministers in Bihar should henceforth practise caution before speaking out about death toll in tragedies. They should verify from reliable sources before giving out such figures. They should realize that the words of ministers and political leaders carry weight. I hope this will not be repeated in future.

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