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Media reported ‘thousands of trees felled ahead of PM Modi’s Odisha visit to make helipad’, turns out, it was a lie

The Media reports that had relied on PTI, The Hindu and Indian Express have been proven summarily false. The numbers in the media of fully grown, tall trees felled ranged between hundreds to thousands. Kalinga even asserted that more than 3000 trees had been felled

Prime Minister Modi is conspiracy’s favourite child, however, this feat cannot be attributed to Modi himself. The Media has often created outlandish stories around the Prime Minister. Stories, that were concocted out of thin air, with no evidence whatsoever. On Sunday, a similar story surfaced where it was alleged by media that hundreds (some said thousands) of trees had been felled to make a temporary helipad for the Prime Minister ahead of his Odisha visit. PM Modi is scheduled to flag off the inaugural run of Khurda-Balangir railway line train before addressing a public meeting today.

PTI reported on January 14th, which was carried by several media houses like The Week and NDTV, that “two days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Balangir district, a row erupted on Sunday over the alleged cutting of trees to prepare a temporary helipad for the visit”. PTI reported that Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Balangir, Sameer Satpathy had said that several trees were felled near the Railway Station ground without permission and an enquiry had been ordered.

PTI report said:

“Following the direction of the DFO, a team will visit the site in order to ascertain the number of trees felled in the area,” said Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Babaji Charan Raul. Since the area happens to be under the jurisdiction of the Railways, an official of the East Coast Railways (ECoR) said they are also conducting an inquiry into the matter.

“We are doing our own inquiry on the subject,” Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of ECoR, J.P. Mishra said, adding, preparation of such a helipad is the task of the public works department (PWD) of the state government.

However, one of the earliest reports that have been relied upon by several other media houses came from The Hindu.

On 13th January, The Hindu reported that over a 1,000 trees have been felled to make a temporary helipad for the Prime Minister.

The Hindu report on 13th January 2019

The Hindu had reported that “under the urban plantation programme, saplings were planted on 2.25 hectares controlled by the Indian Railways in 2016. As a vacant land was required for the helipad, authorities had to clear 1.25 hectares”.

The Hindu report was updated on 14th January, presumably to add the latter part where they asserted that “the State forest department had conducted a preliminary inquiry into the tree felling. “The allegation of tree felling is true. No prior permission was sought from us for it,” said Samir Kumar Satpathy, Balangir Divisional Forest Officer”.

It may be recalled that the PTI report quoted above from the 14th also says that an inquiry had been ordered. However, The Hindu had reported that Satpathy had confirmed the tree felling and asserted that over 1000 to 1200 trees have been lost.

The Hindu report was made the basis of reportage for several news outlets.

IndiaTimes, a Times group website also reported the news based on The Hindu.

IndiaTimes report on 14th January 2019, based on The Hindu report

Congress mouthpiece National Herald also depended on The Hindu report and mocked the Prime Minister for these “developments”.

Congress mouthpiece National Herald report based on The Hindu report

The Logical Indian, a left propaganda website also reported based on The Hindu report.

The Logical Indian reported based on The Hindu

Separately, Indian Express independently reported the same on 14th January 2019.

The Indian Express report on 14th January 2019

After the Indian Express report, several propaganda websites ran reports furthering the same lie about several trees being felled.

Scroll.in depended on the Indian Express and furthered the lie.

Scroll report depending on Indian Express

The Quint too depended on Indian Express and furthered the lie.

The Quint report depending on Indian Express

Kalinga, in fact, went a step further and declared that over 3000 trees had been felled to make a temporary helipad for Prime Minister Modi.

However, all of these reports have been proven to be a lie.

Today, Times of India Bhubaneshwar reported that no trees were in fact felled to make the temporary helipad but only small shrubs were cut down. It reported that East Coast Railway spokesperson had asserted that no trees were felled and that a January 7 video prior to helipad making shows there were no big tree on the spot.

It was also reported that leaves and branches of a few trees on Railway land had to be pruned to give full space for helicopter movements and that all concerned authorities were a part of the full discussions. Only a few plants and shrubs were removed.

In fact, initial estimates pointed that not more than 40 shrubs and saplings had been felled.

The Media reports that had relied on PTI, The Hindu and Indian Express have been proven summarily false. The numbers in the media of fully grown, tall trees felled ranged between hundreds to thousands. Kalinga even asserted that more than 3000 trees had been felled. However, the truth has been revealed of only 40 shrubs and saplings being removed. Reports have indicated that the truth is far from what was reported. No trees were felled at all.

What remains to be seen is whether these media houses show the same ethics that was displayed by Business Standard recently when they pulled a report down after our fact-check. Kalinga TV has too pulled their fake news down after the OpIndia Fact-check.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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