The Rumour Mill

How one small hearsay snowballs into a tsunami of falsehood

Last week a unique situation of misinformation gripped the whole valley when thousands of children below five years were being administered lifesaving immunization vaccine drops against polio (poliomyelitis) disease. Everything was fine at thousands of temporary health clinics till afternoon. Suddenly, much of social media and other communication modes flooded with rumours about some children getting sick after receiving polio vaccine at these state run immunization centers. Unfortunately, this wild fire like rumour panicked every parent and the whole immunization scheme got not only paralysed, but almost all parents who had already immunized their children, without confirming the news rushed to nearest healthcare center carrying their kids in whatever transport means they could manage in that hour of crisis. Whole valley came under the grip of confusion, chaos and mismanagement. Entire administration was caught unawares, particularly the health department. Most of the health workers and staff were engaged in the field with elaborate immunization network, so in the absence of staff at hospitals the situation spiraled into a huge crisis. At certain hospitals staff had to bear the brunt of angry mobs. A sadistic rumour paralysed the whole valley and left a prestigious healthcare campaign into limbo. In harsh winters with subzero temperature they put small children in risk of getting sick.Million dollar question!  Why did the mischief mongers strike at the heart of a vital lifesaving programme, that oo when it was running an elaborate immunization show? What made them stoop so low where they crossed all limits of humanity? What did they get out of it? Did they, as usual wanted to put the administration in trouble, but at what cost? Cost of getting gullible parents along with their kids on streets, agonize them with apprehensions for safety of their kids. Pessimistic, brutal or mischievous will be too small adjectives to define these delusory creatures suffering from idiotic disorder and psychological malfunctioning. Mischief mongers had their day of heartless adventure, but what about the sufferings of thousands of people? They waged war against society and mankind using a weapon—social media, otherwise an opportunity meant for betterment of mankind. Social media has revolutionized the entire world; making it a global village. Alas! These monsters exploited a powerful medium of communication to derive sadistic pleasure out of the sufferings of thousands of men women and children.

With very little control on power of social media, menace of rumour mongers and mischief makers cannot be contained unless multi-pronged strategy of curbing the menace on societal and administrative front. Using the same medium of ‘social media’ society as a whole should start a campaign to discourage mischief mongers. Remarkably, immediately after this confusion when administration came out with its version, thousands of social media members contributed a lot in neutralizing the adverse impact of this cowardly act. A healthy sign of better sense can be encouraged and used in best interest of society. On administrative and legal front government should move beyond inconsequential cybercrime monitoring cell. Only a full-fledged anti-cybercrime department armed with harsh legal provisions can restore confidence among the people. Apparently, initiating a small rumour looks like a petty crime punishable with few months of incarceration or lesser fine. But under prevailing circumstances with powerful medium of communication under our fingers tips rumours can paralyses the entire system and obviously must invite harsher punishment. As I said, it amounts to waging war against humankind and need to be dealt with iron hand. A sweeping change in our laws by enacting revolutionary legislations with change in times and technology becomes imperative. We must come out of existing outdated ‘Ranbir panel codes’ and change the entire system of our legal structure in line with changing times. We a society and our administration as our guardians should rise to the occasion and deal this menace determinedly without any compromise.