Chennai: News Anchor Booked for Video Message About Shortage of Hospital Beds

In the video clip, Varadharajen claimed that a friend who had developed severe breathing problems, was told by every hospital that there were no beds available.

New Delhi: Veteran news anchor and television actor S. Varadharajen has been booked under provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act after he said, in a video message, that an unwell friend of his had struggled to find a bed in Chennai.

In the video clip, Varadharajen claimed that one of his friends, who had developed severe breathing problems and fever, was told by every hospital contacted that there were no beds available. He could not get admitted to a hospital despite contacting senior government officials, Varadharajen alleged.

“All big hospitals and government hospitals in Chennai told the family not to get him to the hospital. They said they can’t provide treatment. We sought help at the government secretary level, and we even spoke with owners, MDs, chairman of hospitals. Nobody could help us. They all are very frank,” Varadharajen said in the video, according to the Indian Express.

According to a report in The Hindu, after the video went viral, the state’s health and family welfare minister C. Vijayabaskar warned Varadharajen of action under the Epidemic Diseases Act for spreading false information. The health minister also asserted that there were 75,000 beds in  Tamil Nadu and 5,000 in Chennai alone.

“We will take action against him under the Epidemic Diseases Act. He has given completely wrong information,” the minister said. “This is a pandemic — a crisis situation — and people are panicking. His claim that government and private hospitals do not have enough beds is wrong,”

If someone had symptoms, all they had to do was go to a hospital, the minister claimed. “There is no need to call them. It is the doctor’s decision as to how to treat the patients after taking into account their willingness for the same. Which government officer did Mr. Varadharajen contact,” the minister said. “We have sufficient facilities. Anyone can make tall claims,” he added.

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The state health minister further held that Tamil Nadu had a recovery rate of 56%. There is a view among doctors that cases will go up, but the State is prepared to tackle the situation, he said.

Following the minister’s remarks, Varadharajen claimed that the video clip had only been sent to his friends, but was then leaked to a wider audience. The government was handling the pandemic well, he then said.

The Central Crime Branch (CCB) booked a case against Varadharajen under sections 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 505(1)(b)(spreading misinformation with intent to cause fear or alarm to public), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act after a complaint was received from the director of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Teynampet.

The Tamil Seidhi Vaasipaarlargal Sangam has since said the state government should not initiate any action against Varadharajen as his intention was simply to spread awareness about the seriousness of the situation.