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An NGO writes to govt asking for study into the use of Ganga water in treating Coronavirus, Shekhar Gupta’s The Print makes it Modi Govt’s proposal

A study by the scientists of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) had indeed found that the Ganga water contains a higher proportion of bacteriophage, the virus that kills bacteria

Continuing its usual antics of spreading misinformation against the Modi government, the controversial news website ‘The Print’ on Wednesday resorted to peddling false information regarding Modi government’s alleged request to ICMR to conduct research on a theory that Gangajal, or water from Ganga river, could possibly cure coronavirus.

The Print, which has a notorious history of publishing fake news, reported that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has turned down the “Narendra Modi government’s request” to carry out a research on a theory that Gangajal could be a possible cure for the Chinese pandemic.

The left-wing website claimed that a ‘source’ in the ICMR informed them that the research institute has refused to get involved as it is focussing on the coronavirus battle and does not want to waste time on other research.

Misleading information from the Print

The Print, in its headline, claimed that it was Modi government which wants a study on Gangajal. However, it contradicted it’s own report as it wrote that the “request” from the Ministry of Jal Shakti to conduct “further research” was sent after it received a proposal by an NGO, Atulya Ganga.

The Print again quotes an imaginary source from the ICMR, without even naming his identity, raising suspicion on the authenticity of the claims made by the website.

According to the report, in its letter last month, NGO Atulya Ganga had cited the presence of a ‘ninja virus’’ called a bacteriophage, in Ganga’s water that could cure coronavirus. A bacteriophage is a special type of virus that eats harmful bacteria, the letter said. Atulya Ganga founder, Major Manoj Keshwar (retd) said that there are scientific references to suggest that these phages have anti-microbial properties and could potentially destroy bacteria.

The NGO had asked the government on 3 April to conduct a study on the possibility of this virus acting as a cure. It had also sent a copy each to the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), according to The Print’s own admission.

ICMR rejects NGO’s proposal

The National Mission for Clean Gangaa, an arm of the Jal Shakti Ministry and the department in charge of the Modi government’s ambitious Namami Gange programme, had received a number of proposals, including from general public and NGOs working on Ganga, to undertake clinical studies for the treatment of coronavirus patients with the river water. After receiving the letter from the NGO Atulya Ganga, the NMCG following the routine protocol wrote a letter to ICMR on 30 April requesting a clinical trial.

The ICMR then held a meeting to discuss the idea, but refused to proceed, offering only its “help” to the NGO.

“We had indeed received a letter from the Ministry of Jal Shakti for such research. The experts at ICMR also held a meeting on this matter. Then we asked those proposing this research that you should tell us about hospitals and doctors that are ready and willing to conduct some research on it. We will certainly help them in this regard,” said the ICMR official.

The Print’s false claims

According to the Print’s own claims, it is the NGO – Atulya Ganga which had initiated the proposal to use the water of Ganga for possible research on developing a cure to coronavirus and not the Modi government. The same was mentioned by other media houses which reported on the matter.

In fact, following the necessary protocol, the Modi government’s Jal Shakti ministry had merely forwarded the proposal to the ICMR rather than itself taking a call on the matter.

However, the Print, through a clickbait headline resorted to mislead the public by claiming that it was the Modi government who on its own sent the proposal to the ICMR and deliberately hid the details pertaining to the NGO so that it could discredit the efforts of the Modi government.

Bacteriophage in Ganga water

A study by the scientists of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) had indeed found that the Ganga water contains a higher proportion of bacteriophage, the virus that kills bacteria. In the study titled ”Assessment of Water Quality and Sediment to understand the special properties of River Ganga”, it was found that the water in Ganga contains three times more bacteriophage compared to other rivers, particularly in the upper Himalayan stretches of the Ganga. Although the bacteriophage virus kills bacteria, the Coronavirus is a virus, not a bacteria, so it is unlikely that the water containing a higher amount of bacteriophage will be beneficial in treating Coronavirus infection. But it may be beneficial in eliminating some harmful bacteria, therefore studies in this regard may be conducted in future when situation returns to normalcy.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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