Mamata Banerjee in fresh tussle with Centre as COVID-19 teams blocked from assessing ground situation in West Bengal

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Updated: Apr 21, 2020 4:45 PM

The Centre has set up six teams to make an on-spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation in the worst-affected states and issue necessary directions to the states authorities on containing the spread of coronavirus. The four states are West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Apurva Chandra, Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCT) team leader. (Photo ANI)

The Centre’s decision to send Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) to four states including West Bengal to make an on-spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation and suggest measures to fight the crisis has led to a fresh flashpoint with the West Bengal government led by the Trinamool Congress. Having accused the Centre of selectively targeting the state over this decision, the central team has alleged non-cooperation on part of the state government despite being assured otherwise.

Apurva Chandra, the leader of one of the two teams sent to West Bengal, said its members were told they will not be going out on Tuesday for ground assessment of the situation. He said that the state was not providing support and allowing the officials to carry out the work for which they have been deployed.

“We came here yesterday and our order of deployment also says that the state government is to provide logistic support to us. I have been in touch with the Chief Secretary since yesterday and since the time I landed here, I am seeking support from the state government to visit the affected areas,” Chandra said.

Chandra also said that the team met the Chief Secretary on Monday evening at Nabanna and was assured that we will again have a meeting and we will be going out for the work. “But today we were informed that there are some issues and we will not be going out,” Chandra, who is also an Additional secretary in the Defence Ministry, said.

Chandra said teams that have gone to other states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are getting full support of state governments. “They were given the same notice as West Bengal but they have faced no problems since yesterday,” he said.

He said that the team arrived here on Monday morning and since then “we are asking the state government for support”.

“It has been more than 1 day. We have only visited Nabanna and NICED. These are the only 2 places we have visited,” he said.

The Centre has set up six teams to make an on-spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation in the worst-affected states and issue necessary directions to the states authorities on containing the spread of coronavirus. The four states are West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. While Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the three are ruled by opposition parties.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday said that the situation is especially serious in Mumbai, Pune, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata and a few other places in West Bengal. It also referred to the violation of lockdown measures by the states to say it will only increase the risk.

On Monday evening, expressing displeasure over the Home Ministry’s decision, Banerjee in a series of tweets asked the Centre to explain the rationale behind the deployment of central teams and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to share the criteria to be followed by the teams for the assessment of the situation, without which her government “would not be able to move ahead”.

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