Amidst a deadly fight against the raging coronavirus cases in the country, Indian authorities are also engaged in a separate battle with those posting messages deemed anti-government. In an apparent barb at the authorities over non-availability of enough anti-coronavirus protective gear, a person posted an advertisement on OLX, an online marketplace dealing with second-hand goods, that the world's tallest statue, the Statute of Unity, was on sale.
The authorities pulled the advertisement and registered a case against an unknown person in the western state of Gujarat for posting the advertisement.
Statue of Unity 'being sold' for $4 bn
The Statue of Unity, located at Kevadiya in Narmada district of Gujarat, has come in for criticism over its enormous cost. The argument against it is that the money could well have been spent on other things like health and sanitation that India's poor are in dire need of.
The advertisement claimed that the funds received from the sale of the statue would be used for hospitals and purchasing medical equipment, to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. 'Emergency! Selling Statue of Unity because of urgent money required for the hospitals and healthcare equipment," read the ad on the website.
The First Information Report (FIR) filed against the unknown person states: "Some unknown person placed an advertisement on OLX on Saturday stating he needs to sell the Statue of Unity for Rs 30,000 crore [$4bn] to meet the requirement of money to make hospitals and buy healthcare equipment."
According to Business Today, police officer PT Chaudhary revealed that the Statue of Unity authorities came to know of the advertisement only after a local newspaper carried an article.
"Cheating and forgery case was filed under the IPC (Indian Penal Code), Epidemic Diseases Act, and Information Technology Act," said the police officer.
In a statement issued soon after, the Chief Administrator of the Statue of Unity said: "The unidentified person had posted the advertisement on OLX even though he had no authority to do so. The ad was placed to defame the government and mislead people. Such an advertisement hurts the sentiments of several crore people who idolise Sardar Patel."
The 182-metre tall statue built in honour of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, known as the "Iron Man of India", was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018. Patel was a leading figure of India's independence struggle against the British.
Spike in cyber-crime cases after pandemic
India, which is currently under a national lockdown of 21 days, has seen a rise in cyber-crime cases ever since COVID-19 hit the country. A senior home ministry official told AlJazeera: "We have received over 8,300 complaints from individuals across India and NRIs [non-resident Indians] who have donated thousands of dollars into fake accounts."
Recently, an initiative started by Modi, "PM Cares Fund", to fight the battle against coronavirus, also fell prey to online tricksters. The publication revealed that police and internal security officials have found fake versions of the flagship "PM-CARES Fund" payments interface created by the scamsters which looks deceptively similar to the original.
"We have already blocked all handles with permutations and combinations of the 'PM Cares Fund' that were illegitimate and we are being watchful and ensuring that the handles for donations get verified," said Dilip Asbe, CEO of National Payments Corporation of India.
With 354 fresh cases reported in the last 24 hours, the total number coronavirus cases in India touched 4,421 with 115 deaths.