A post shared by Facebook page Yogi Adityanath – True Indian claims that women travelling alone via auto or taxi at night can now SMS the vehicle’s number to the police at 9969777888 and the police will keep a track of the vehicle via GPRS. The post urges people to “share this information as many times as possible as one can never know if the next victim is our dear one.” The alleged notification has been circulated with an image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting that the initiative was started by this government. It has been shared by nearly 3,000 people.
महिलाओ के हित में जारी एक आवश्यक सूचना।
The announcement is also widespread on Twitter, with users sharing it in different languages.
Alt News looked further and found that the message has been circulating on social media since 2014, with different claims of which government started the initiative – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Delhi among others.
What is the truth?
The initiative was actually started by Mumbai police in March 2014 on the occasion of International Women’s Day after the rape and murder of Hyderabad techie Esther Anuhya. The helpline number was a joint venture between Mumbai police and MTNL. “Under ‘Travel Safe When Alone’ initiative, any women before taking an auto rickshaw or taxi could message the registration number of the vehicle to a dedicated helpline number 9969777888,” reads a report by The Indian Express. “Police will keep the track of the vehicles that the woman is taking and would get her location through GPS,” Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria was quoted in the article. However, the number has been circulating on social media with altered narratives ever since it was launched.
(1/3) Messages on Social Media regarding launch of Delhi Police Women Helpline SMS # 9969777888 for GPS tracking of Auto/Taxi are not true.
— Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) March 31, 2016
As the claim is still viral, Bengaluru police clarified again in May 2018 that no such protocol exists.
Fake message is floating on Whatsapp regarding this number as BCP’s Women Helpline. The number does not belong to BCP
People are requested not to believe or share this fake message. Stringent action will be taken against those who create and spread fake messages on social media pic.twitter.com/cG7Ky81dqd
— BengaluruCityPolice (@BlrCityPolice) June 1, 2018
Moreover, using PM Modi’s photograph is immaterial because the initiative was started in Maharashtra in March 2014 – when Modi was neither the state’s Chief Minister nor the country’s Prime Minister.
Number is no longer functional
Alt News sent a message on the number and we received a reply saying – “Thanks for your Information. CALL 100 if any EMERGENCY. — Mumbai Police. In your Service- MTNL”. However, the reply was auto-generated and the number no longer functions. A March 2017 report by Mid-Day says that the initiative was shut due to poor response from women.
SM Hoax Slayer also debunked the rumours floating on social media last year, adding that the helpline number was shut down.
A common proclivity of fake news purveyors is to change narratives to complement their propaganda. Earlier, a fake message of a ‘1098’ service started by PM Modi was viral on social media. It claimed that calling on that “child helpline” number will enable people to distribute their leftover food to needy children. Any viral message circulating on Whatsapp or other social media platforms should be taken with a tinge of doubt and cross-checked for facts.
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