Lockdown flashpoint: Centre directs Mamata Banerjee to cooperate with COVID-19 team

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Published: April 21, 2020 6:31 PM

While the Centre has been accusing the state government of not implementing the lockdown measures, Mamata Banerjee has said there have been no lockdown violations in her state and observations made by the Home Ministry were devoid of any facts.

West Bengal has so far reported 392 cases and 12 deaths.

The Centre on Tuesday wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee directing her to cooperate with the central teams sent to assess the situation in areas where lockdown was not being enforced effectively. The Ministry of Home Affairs said that it had been brought to its notice that both the inter-ministerial teams at Kolkata and Jalpaiguri had not been provided with the requisite co-operation by the state and local authorities. “In fact, they have been specifically restrained from making any visits interacting with health professionals and assessing the ground level situation,” the MHA said in its letter to the Bengal CM.

The Ministry further said that this amounted to obstructing the implementation of the orders issued by the central government under the Disaster Management Act 2005. “You are, therefore, directed to comply with the MHA order dated April 19, 2020 and make all necessary arrangements for the IMCTs (Inter-Ministerial Central Teams) to carry out such responsibilities as have been entrusted to them,” the ministry said, adding that the Supreme Court too has made similar observations in this regard. The letter comes shortly after a video emerged showing BSF and state officials escorting the teams sent by the Centre.

The Centre on Monday constituted two inter-ministerial teams to make on-spot assessment of situation at Kolkata, Howrah, Medinipur East, 24 Parganas North, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. The mandate for the central team is to focus on complaints of implementation of lockdown, supply of essential commodities, social distancing, preparedness of health infrastructure, safety of health professionals and conditions of the relief camps for labour and poor people.

Shortly after this, Mamata Banerjee asked the Centre to explain the basis of constituting such teams. “Until then, I am afraid, we would not be able to move ahead on this as without valid reasons this might not be consistent with the spirit of federalism,” she said in a series of tweets. Moments after putting out tweets, Banerjee again wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi and complained why the Home Ministry did not inform the state before dispatching the teams. She said the Home Minister had spoken to her over the phone at about 1 pm regarding the visit of the central teams but they had already landed in Kolkata at 10:10 am, much before their conversation.

Since yesterday, a full fledged war of words erupted between the Centre and Mamata Banerjee. While the Centre has been accusing the state government of not implementing the lockdown measures, Mamata Banerjee has said there have been no lockdown violations in her state and observations made by the Home Ministry were devoid of any facts. West Bengal has so far reported 392 cases and 12 deaths.

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