A picture that appears to be a screenshot of a graphic plate of TV9 Marathi was sent for verification on Alt News WhatsApp helpline number (+91 76000 11160). It features Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray alongside Marathi text that reads, “Strict 15-day lockdown to be imposed across the state starting March 1, 2021.”
It is noteworthy that there has been a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in five states including Maharashtra. The Center has asked these states to strictly implement social distancing rules and amp up testing facilities. The Indian Express reported that more than 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Maharashtra on Sunday alone. The state’s cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal had also tested positive. A partial lockdown has been imposed in Maharashtra. While it will not be as strict as previous lockdowns, night curfews will be in place. Furthermore, schools and colleges will remain closed. The state government has announced a lockdown in Amravati and some other regions including Achalpur.
We performed a reverse image search of the image in question and found a similar graphic plate in a Free Press Journal fact-check report dated March 27, 2020. But the Marathi text is different than the one currently viral. The Marathi text in The Free Press Journal graphic reads, “Liquor shops to now be open from 3 to 4 PM.” The font used for this text is also different from the one in the image sent to us.
Alt News performed a keyword search on YouTube, which led us to a TV9 video report where Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is speaking about the Janata curfew imposed in March last year. The video was uploaded on March 22, 2020. Nowhere in the video did the Chief Minister mention anything about liquor stores remaining open during the lockdown. He also does not talk about the lockdown effective from March 1 to 15 (we would like to remind our readers that a nationwide lockdown was imposed for the first time on March 25 last year, so this information may not be correct even in the context of the previous year).
Comparing the screenshot featured here with the one sent to us, it is clear that the text in the latter has been edited. The font in the original graphic is also different from the font seen in both the viral screenshots. Apart from this, the graphics of the channel, the chief minister’s shirt, and his chair are identical in all three screenshots. It is possible that these screenshots were edited using other TV9 broadcasts.
At the time of writing, the Maharashtra government has not announced a statewide 15-day lockdown from March 1 onwards. However, some other restrictions, including night curfews, have been re-imposed due to the rapid uptick in COVID-19 cases. Along with this, lockdowns will be put into place only in those districts that are at the risk of becoming coronavirus hotspots once again. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has given residents an 8-day ultimatum and requested them to follow the mandated guidelines.
TV9 Marathi also issued a statement clarifying that the viral screenshot was fake.
Furthermore, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had tweeted on February 22 that “stringent action” has been directed against the people spreading lockdown rumours.
The @MahaCyber1 Branch is keeping a close eye on those who are spreading false rumors that lockdown has been reimposed in Maharashtra. Stringent action has been directed against the people concerned for attempting to disseminate false information without any official information.
— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) February 22, 2021