Media outlet One India Malayalam published a story on August 11 claiming that three petrol pumps in Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad, Kerala were seized by the army after they were refused petrol and diesel for rescue operations in flood-hit areas.

The same story was reported by Malayalam media outlet Thejas News the day before. Subsequently, it travelled to social media where several users made posts alleging that army men were denied petrol in Kerala.

An infographic created by the infamous fake news outlet Postcard News was seen floating online.

Posted by IIT Madras Junta Against Leftist APSC on Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Postcard News also made a video on the claim and shared it from its page Post Card TV. The video, titled, “Kerala Floods: Petrol pumps refuse to offer fuel to Indian Army for rescue operations”, has over one lakh views.

Kerala Floods

Kerala Floods : Petrol pumps refuse to offer fuel to Indian Army for rescue operations

Posted by Post Card TV on Monday, 12 August 2019

The message – “മഴക്കെടുതിയിൽ രക്ഷാപ്രവർത്തനത്തിന് എത്തിയ സൈന്യത്തിന് ഇന്ധനം നൽകാത്താതിനാൽ മൂന്ന് പെട്രോൾ പമ്പുകൾ സേന കസ്റ്റഡിയിലാക്കി. (Army has taken three petrol pumps into custody after they failed to provide petrol to the army.)” – has been shared by many on social media.

Fake news

When Alt News searched for news reports on the alleged refusal by petrol pumps in Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad, we found none. This was the first hint at the claim’s ingenuity. We contacted Bharat Petroleum, Sulthan Bathery and were told that the news is false and has been circulating on WhatsApp since the past few days. “No petrol pumps in Sulthan Bathery have refused to provide petrol to any vehicles of the army. The rescue operations are being conducted in Neppadi and not here,” informed the supervisor.

“Moreover, army men don’t suddenly show up to fill their vehicles with petrol. The information comes to us through the district collector so that we are prepared to provide the needed quantities. This is the protocol during disaster/ relief operations. Petrol pumps are directed to set aside reserves for government vehicles,” he furthered, adding that the Wayanad District Petrol Dealers Association has filed a complaint with the Kerala government and the district police regarding the misinformation. A copy of the complaint was shared with Alt News.

We also spoke to the supervisor at Geethanjali petrol pump in Sulthan Bathery and were given the same information as Bharat Petroleum. This was corroborated with the Secretary of the Wayanad District Petroleum Dealers Association Hijas Mohammed. Speaking with Alt News he said, “We have submitted written complaints to the police, the district administration, district collector and the district SP. The misinformation is quite viral. We enquired about rescue operations with our friends in the army who informed that they do not come to petrol pumps directly. The district administration is informed about the quantity, which is then shared with the petrol pumps for them to keep reserves ready. This is the procedure.”

A piece of misinformation was given credibility on social media after a few local media outlets published a false story. That the army seized petrol pumps after they were refused petrol and diesel in Suthan Bathery, Wayanad is fake news.

About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.