On Sunday, some media outlets reported that the Madhya Pradesh government is planning to start an astrology OPD (out-patient department) in which astrologers will provide consultation to visitors facing “diverse problems”.
As per a report in the New Indian Express, an “Astrology OPD” was being planned where, astrologers, vastu experts, palmists and proponents of Vedic karmakanda will delve deep into the horoscopes and lifelines of visitors, including patients, for three to four hours twice a week (preferably on weekends).
The report quoting PR Tiwari, director of Bhopal-based Maharshi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan – a state run educational institute – as saying, “Only we are giving it the name of Astro OPD and in no way will it be any kind of medical OPD to be operated at hospital. Like OPDs where junior doctors work under the supervision of seniors, aspiring astrologers will assist Astro experts in dealing with various kinds of cases in the Astro OPDs”
Though it was clear that such an OPD was not any medical OPD in true sense, and that this was limited to just one institute that was not a government hospital, the news headlines were cunningly crafted to suggest as if the Madhya Pradesh government is going to let astrologers treat patients in all government hospitals.
For example, this is what HuffPost, which has become one of the leading outlets spreading misinformation in recent times, chose as title for their report — Madhya Pradesh Is Planning To Get Astrologers To Diagnose Patients — which suggests as if the state is going to give astrologers the same status as doctors. Many other outlets carried similar misleading headlines and reports.
Add to that, there were journalists on social media, who spread this misinformation by using similar language, thus suggesting it was going to be a new norm in the government hospitals in Madhya Pradesh. One such journalist writing for international publications even went on to gather public opinion on it, insinuating cultural decay of India:
Patients at state-run hospitals in Madhya Pradesh will soon be able to consult astrologers in addition to doctors. What does this suggest?
— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) July 17, 2017
But soon the news turned out to fake. Madhya Pradesh government today junked the news reports and made it clear that the state government has not made any such decision. There was no plan of having even one so-called OPD, as was originally reported in a few articles that did not mislead.
Principal Secretary of Health in Madhya Pradesh government Gauri Singh was quoted as saying, “I am amused at the news. This is absurd, unfounded and it is not possible at all.”
“It will not be an OPD but a consultation centre,” he clarified about the plans for one Maharashi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan, which was twisted to create this sensationalist news.
Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Rustam Singh also rued this sensationalism, saying, “The journalists, those who have reported about the so-called ‘Astrology OPD’ should have felt the necessity to at least talk to any government authority to cross check whether the information was correct or not. But they never cared to do that.”