The second wave of COVID-19 has hit severely in India. On April 16, The Times of India reported that Maharashtra recorded the highest number of cases (63,729) and deaths (398) since October 2020. Despite the rising cases across the country, Hindu pilgrims have gathered in lakhs for Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. The congregation has received criticism for flouting COVID norms. Against this backdrop, several social media users posted two images of empty beds with the claim that Mumbai’s Sri Swami Narayan temple has converted itself into a COVID hospital, and the expenses will be borne by the temple.
BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje tweeted the images and wrote, “Together we can beat this #CoronaPandemic! Mumbai Sri Swamynarayan Mandir premises converted into COVID hospital. Will the liberal media see this contribution of a Hindu Org??!”
BJP leader B L Santhosh also posted the images.
Congress leader and Urdu poet Mohammad Imran Pratapgarhi made the claim in Hindi. He wrote, “मुंबई के श्री स्वामीनारायण मंदिर को कोविड अस्पताल में बदल दिया गया है । वहाँ पर इलाज कराने वाले सभी बीमारों का ख़र्च भी मंदिर ही उठाएगा ।मंदिर प्रशासन को दिल से साधुवाद.” This tweet gained over 6,000 retweets.
Twitter user @marineravin‘s tweet gained over 2,000 retweets.
Several verified accounts also quoted-tweeted the claim including journalists Padman Joshi, Rahul Pandita, Uttam Kumar; columnist Harini Calamur, Bollywood actor Richa Chadha and Swara Bhaskar, TV actor Shruti Seth, film director Onir, and The Dialogue founder Kazim Rizvi.
Imposter account of Pushpendra Kulshreshtha (ThePushpendra_) amplified the claim. His tweet has 10,000 likes.
Just like on Twitter, the claim is widespread on Facebook.
On April 14, TV9 Gujarati reported that the prayer meet hall of Vadodara-based BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (in the Atladra area) has been turned into a 200-bed COVID facility as a response to the shortage of hospital beds due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Gujarat. The number of beds will be increased to 500 in the coming days.
TV9 reported facilities such as 13,000 litres of oxygen supply, 30 toilets, 40 bathrooms and ventilatory and intensive care units will also be set up. As per the channel, 21 patients were admitted to this facility. On the same day, as per Desh Gujarat’s report, the number of patients rose to 45. By the next day, 300 beds were ready according to The Times of India. TOI added that a mosque in the city also got permission to start a 142-bed facility.
The visuals shown in the TV9 report are identical to the ones in the viral image.
The following collage shows the similarities in the viral image and TV9 report. At the 0:25 second mark, we can see that the bedsheets are identical and at the 0:47 second mark we can see that the stage in the background is identical as well.
A high-resolution video uploaded by the Facebook page ‘Our Vadodara‘ shows the same hospital. Several other users/pages have uploaded multiple images from the facility including — Friends of BAPS Poland, Voice of Vadodara, and Sanjay Koriya.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – London Our global efforts to combat the effects of #COVID19 continue in India with a…
Alt News spoke with Gyan Vatsal Swami of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple, Vadodara. “I’m aware that some images are being shared with misleading information. That’s probably because the label on the beds shows Mumbai’s address. Last year during the peak of the pandemic we had made beds and sent them to Mumbai. Once the situation got better, the beds were returned to Vadodara because we have a larger storage facility. The same beds are being used in Vadodara.”
One of the users who shared the viral claim also tweeted that the board on the beds says ‘Dadar’.
BAPS Mumbai issued a press release clarifying that the COVID facility has been opened in Vadodara.
The press note by Sadhu Bhaktipriyadas further says, “There are plans to open a COVID Center at Powai by BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir. Hopefully, we will one open in Dadar as well.”
To conclude, images of Vadodara BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir which was turned into a COVID-19 care facility was shared with the false claim it shows the care facility in Mumbai’s Shri Swaminarayan Mandi. There are no media reports that confirm such an initiative has been taken in Mumbai.