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Kerala floods | CM Pinarayi Vijayan warns of action against ‘fake messages’

Says police have been instructed to take strict measures against the cyber offenders involved in spread of “fake messages”, specifically mentioning “fraudulent messages/posters with altered CMDRF account numbers”

SNS | New Delhi |

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan came down heavily on people Monday and issued a warning one again for spreading “misinformation and fake messages” surrounding the devastating Kerala floods that have claimed nearly 370 lives and caused widespread destruction across the state.

In a series of tweets, the CM said it had been noticed that some people were trying to derail the efforts being made by Kerala to overcome the adversities, warning them of “serious consequences”. Stating that the state police have been instructed to take strict measures against cyber offenders, Vijayan specifically mentioned surfacing of “fraudulent messages/posters with altered CMDRF account numbers”.

“Kerala is striving together as a fraternity to overcome the catastrophic flood. However, we have noticed that some are trying to malign this great effort with misinformation in the form of fake messages on social media…,” the CM tweeted, adding in the next post: “Police have been instructed to take strict measures against such cyber offenders. Also Spotted some fraudulent messages/posters with altered CMDRF account numbers as well.”

READ | Kerala fights a battle against fake news 

He said the state was exhibiting “monumental strength to bounce back from this tragedy”, adding that and anyone trying to disrupt it would face “serious consequences”.

Referring to allegations that the Kerala government misused the Ockhi disaster relief fund, Vijayan said: “Rumours have been spread that the Ockhi disaster relief fund has not been used efficiently. Apart from releasing ₹20 Lakh grant at record pace for the families of those who died/missing. Govt also disbursed the central fund of ₹2 lakh for each fisherman impacted by Okhi,” adding: “Grants were released directly to bank accounts of victim/families, and is currently releasing aid for fishing equipment. We’ve been utilizing Ockhi relief fund with utmost care and will continue to do so.”

Assuring the donors that their money was in safe hands, the CM said: “Your contribution to disaster relief fund no matter how big or small it is, will be issued to deserving people. Request each one of you to contribute to CMDRF to support our mission to rebuild lives in the impacted areas.”

READ | How and where you can donate to help Kerala

From messages about bursting of dams to fake rescue calls, there has been a deluge of fake information surrounding the Kerala floods on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. The chief minister issued a warning on Sunday also to those involved in such activities.

“Efforts are in progress to save even the last person stranded. Many of the requests coming to helpline numbers are for people who are already rescued. Sending erroneous information can only delay rescue efforts. Kindly forward only messages that are valid,” the CMO Kerala posted on Twitter on Sunday.

On Monday morning, the Indian Army flagged a video posted on Twitter by a man in which he is seen criticizing the Kerala government for the manner in which it is carrying out the rescue operations in the flood-hit state. In a tweet posted on August 19, the Additional Directorate General of Public Information, Indian Army, said the man wearing an Army combat uniform was an imposter spreading disinformation about the rescue and relief efforts.

The video had gone viral on social media.

“Imposter wearing Army combat uniform in video spreading disinformation about rescue & relief efforts. Every effort by all & #IndianArmy  aimed to overcome this terrifying human tragedy.Forward disinformation about #IndianArmy on WhatsApp +917290028579. We are at it #KeralaFloods,” posted ADGPI.

An audio clip in which a man was heard asking people not to send anything to Kerala saying the “rich” state did not need them had also gone viral on social media. The man, Suresh Kochattil, said in the clip most people impacted by the Kerala floods were from well to do families and that they did not need any charity. He also said Kerala had already received more than what was required, and cast doubt on the utilisation of the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. He requested people to contribute to “organisations like Seva Bharathi”, instead.

Seva Bharathi is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Suresh Kochattil claims to be a member of both the RSS and the BJP.

Suresh Kochattil’s audio clip, shared widely in WhatsApp groups besides on Twitter and Facebook, invited flak from all quarters, especially from the people involved in the rescue and relief efforts in Kerala and elsewhere. People including some claiming to be RSS volunteers condemned Kochattil saying his words were in “bad taste”.