After vaccine and testing hesitancy, various state governments in India are now battling a new challenge: a rumour that 5G testing towers spread coronavirus. Widely being circulated now via voice notes and word-of-mouth in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and other states, it has fuelled paranoia among hundreds of villagers, leading to several instances where mobile towers have been damaged or uprooted in recent weeks.
Four towers have been reported damaged in some 15 villages of Haryana’s Jind and Rohtak districts alone where fearful locals have demanded the shifting out of the structures. State Chief Secretary Vijai Vardhan has, meanwhile, asked District Magistrates and police officials to ensure the safety of all telecom infrastructure.
“Take strict coercive and immediate action against any miscreant spreading such misleading rumours,” the Chief Secretary has said in his letter, emphasising that 5G testing has not even begun in the country.
Besides, the World Health Organization has clarified that such rumours are misplaced as viruses cannot travel on radio waves and mobile networks. The Department of Telecommunication, too, had recently said that linking 5G to the pandemic this way had no scientific basis.
“In Hisar, residents of Rakhi Shahpur, Khanda Kheri, Kot Kalan, and Majra have asked district authorities to remove towers from their villages,” another senior Haryana government official said. He emphasised that, unlike earlier times, each tower nowadays is used by multiple companies. “If one is damaged, it affects functioning of other networks, too.”
Such damage to cellular towers has been reported from villages in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, too. Some social media posts, too, have claimed that 5G towers were being closed and uprooted in villages of Fatehpur, Siddharthnagar, Gorakhpur, and Sultanpur.
Fearing a backlash and an adverse law and order situation, various state administrations have asked district authorities to take steps to allay the apprehensions of villagers and also to protect telecom infrastructure.
The police have zeroed-in on an audio message doing the rounds in which it is claimed that 5G trials were fuelling the surge in Covid cases in India. In it, a male voice is heard saying that because of 5G testing, people are dying in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Bihar.