TV9, a Hindi language news broadcasting channel on May 13th ran a story where it claimed that a new virus has been detected in tomatoes grown in Maharshtra and the consumption of these tomatoes will lead to the spread of this virus onto humans and this will be fatal than the novel Coronavirus. Though the post has since then been deleted, videos of the same have been viral on various social media platforms.
Tomato is an essential part of our food so of course, this news created panic countrywide, our whatsapp number was flooded with the query from people around.
Following is the video which has been taken down by by the News channel from all social media platforms
A few screenshots, capturing the gist of the news segment are as follows:
The video goes onto claims that the Ahmadnagar city in Maharashtra has tomato fields that are yet to be cultivated as there is no one to pluck the tomatoes, no one to sell it and no one to buy it. The virus, according to the report will be transmitted onto the famers if they are to come in contact with the same.
— शराबी…🥂🍷 (@shrabi_h) May 16, 2020
— 𝓖𝓪𝓾𝓻𝓪𝓿 ✨ (@DSP3105) May 13, 2020
Virus #attacks on tomato in Ahmed nagar – maharastra
— naveenDaga (@MutualFundShop) May 16, 2020
The news story faced severe backlash from social media over the spread of misinformation over which the story was taken down. TV9 has since then denied having said the above statements and went onto to state that they have not made any such claims and requested that the viewers do not pay heed to any such social media claims. This video can be viewed here. A contradictory remark is placed side by side below:
The video also denies that they have made any associations between this virus and Coronavius when they clearly compared the two in the video published on May 13th.
According to BOOMLive, Ankush Chormale, an entomologist who has been actively involved in protecting the tomato crops and is studying the spread of the virus in Maharashtra, denied that the new virus attacking tomato crops had anything to do with the coronavirus. He also denied the claims made by TV9 Bharatvarsh that virus gets transmitted to human beings.
Two sources were used to explain the virus occurrence. Dr Ajit Nawale, the General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha was one of them and his name was misspelt as Prashant Shende.
However, he neither names the virus as ‘Tiranga’ nor does he confirm that the said virus possess danger to human beings through transmission. His claims mainly focus on confirming that an unknown virus is hitting tomato fields in Maharashtra and that amidst the already existing Coronovirus that have affected the food distribution chain, this deepens the difficulties faced by farmers.
Many social media handles were seen calling out the news package for its erroneous reporting.
An erroneous news item in @TV9Bharatvarsh claims that a virus worse than #Corona has affected #Tomato crops in parts of #Maharashtra and that it’s deadly. There is no truth in such obnoxious claims. We urge the channel not to run such bizarre stories. @drsujayvikhe pic.twitter.com/FzX67XRuwT
— IndiAgri (@Indiagri) May 16, 2020
Such a low level of journalism by @TV9Bharatvarsh.
Only such C grade, TRP hungry news channel can spread such fear mongering news stories.
— Abhishek Bhowmick (@connectabhishek) May 16, 2020
Tomatoe samples are being analysed as confirmed by reports such as Hindu Businessline that quotes, “An unidentified virus is attacking tomato crops in large parts of Maharashtra. In the districts of Ahmednagar, Pune and Nashik, about 60 per cent of the crop has been decimated in the last 10 days. Experts at the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth at Rahuri, Ahmednagar, which is the local agriculture university, are studying the outbreak along with State government officials but the virus remains unidentified.” However, the report does not confirm any human transmission, recorded human death from having consumed the tomatoes nor any recorded judgement of its magnitude.
TV9 having since deleted the video has not apologised for sensationalising it but have blamed social media for allegedly linking the “Tiranga” virus to Coronavirus.