Bengaluru:Â Migrants from other states are leaving Kerala, threatened by fake messages and fake news on social media, putting the stateâ€™s heavily migrant labour-reliant economy in a tailspin.
Many hotels and restaurants were shut for the second day in a row on Tuesday in Calicut, Ernakulam and Kollam districts, unable to cope with the labour shortage after many migrants left, regional news channel Manorama News reported.
Migrants make up 2.5 million of Keralaâ€™s 33 million people. Every fourth male between the ages of 20 and 64 is likely to be a migrant, as per a 2013 state government study. Most are from UP, West Bengal and Assam, and they send about Rs19,000 crore home every year in remittances, according to the study.
Moideen Kutty, an office bearer of the apex body of hotel and restaurant associations in the state, told the TV channel that migrants started leaving after the spread of a fake news item about the alleged suicide of a migrant labourer in Calicut district. Fake videos and messages were spread through WhatsApp and other social media platforms, where the alleged suicide death is shown as a torture-killing, along with morphed pictures of riot-like incidents in northern states. This spread panic among the migrants, he said.
Usually, many migrants return home during the Diwali festive season. But hoteliers say the current rate of departure is unusually high. Already, at least 400 migrants have left the state, Kutty said.
A state-level investigation has been ordered. Police chief Loknath Behra met reporters on Tuesday and put forth his appeal in several languages including Hindi.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan put out a series of tweets and a Facebook post on Monday, in both English and Hindi, requesting the migrants not to fall prey to fake news.
He condemned the rumours and said the miscreants spreading them will be punished. The government assures that there is no cause of worry, he added.