Thiruvananthapuram: "Please don't believe fake news" read a board installed outside the post office in Munnar town, tourist destination in Kerala’s Idukki district on Sunday. The board, written in Tamil, was put up by V Paramasivam, Superintendent of the Post Office. It was made necessary after the 131-year-old post office witnessed a rush of visitors, mainly Tamil –speaking locals, like never before. The unprecedented rush of people poured in after a fake news spread in the area that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised Rs 3 to 5 lakh deposit for postal account holders.
The cycle of fake news started with the process for accounts at the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) is being converted into a Small Finance Bank (SFB).
"We did not give any information that they will get benefits by opening postal accounts. Last week, there were directions from the postal department on opening one crore new accounts and we arranged the facility. As per the scheme, a deposit of Rs 100, Aadhar Card and two passport size photographs were required to open the savings bank account. Since the internet connection is slow, we thought of starting the process on Sunday to cater all," Paramasivam told News18.
However, hundreds of people, mainly the tea plantation workers, rushed to the post office from Sunday morning. The officials later came to know that it was a fake news which had beckoned the people to the post office.
Police was pressed into action to regulate the crowd. The post office officials deployed a special drive for the workers to open accounts. "We had to take the support of other employees on deputation for the process. From Sunday morning to Tuesday, we worked endlessly to cater the swelling crowd. Over 1,500 accounts were opened," said Paramasivam.
The officials suspect that it is some fake news spread through social media platforms like WhatsApp that people were misinformed. “I am going to file a complaint with the cyber wing to find those spread the fake news,” said Paramasivam.
On Monday, five kilometers away from Munnar, Regional District Office at Devikulam also witnessed a rush of people following a rumour that land and houses will be distributed for free by the state government. The RDO officials issued a notice that no such direction had been issued. “Nearly thousand workers came to the office. We had to tell them that the information was wrong,” said an employee.
Devikulam sub-collector, Renuraj, directed the police to take action against the rumour-mongers.