Centre slams Bengal over cross-border cargo, COVID-19 mortality rate
The Centre on Wednesday wrote to the West Bengal government asking it to allow the movement of goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh. In a separate letter, the Centre also slammed Bengal over its high mortality rate due to COVID-19, which it said was reflective of the state's poor surveillance, detection, and testing, of the viral disease. Here are more details.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha directing the state to allow cross land border transportation through all Indo-Bangladesh borders without any delay. Bhalla said West Bengal's "unilateral action" to block cross land border movement of essential goods "would have larger implications for the Indian government with regard to its legally binding international commitments."
#Breaking: Union HS Ajay Bhalla writes to WB CS Rajiva Sinha. Says state government has not resumed essential goods vehicles to Bangladesh. The unilateral action of state govt will have larger implications for Indian govt with regard its legally binding international commitments pic.twitter.com/tc7J2vWbnw— Pooja Mehta (@pooja_news) May 6, 2020
In a separate letter to Sinha, Bhalla highlighted issues as reported by the Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) deployed in the state. Bhalla noted that Bengal has a mortality rate of 13.2%, the highest for any Indian state. He added, "This is a reflection of poor surveillance, detection, and testing in the state. There is also a need to increase random testing in crowded clusters."
Till Wednesday, West Bengal reported 1,456 cases of COVID-19, including 72 deaths attributed to the viral disease. However, the state has reported the deaths of 72 other patients who died "due to co-morbidities." Although the state government has been counting "COVID" and "co-morbid" deaths separately, the Centre is of the opinion that both should be included to compute the state's death toll.
Bhalla also noted that the IMCT had observed lockdown violations in Kolkata and Howrah by specific groups in specific localities with media reports of "corona warriors" including police being attacked. He urged Bengal to enforce a stricter lockdown. He also pointed out instances of overcrowding and poor sanitation in bazaars, people moving freely without face covers, people bathing in rivers, people playing cricket/football, etc.
Bhalla also urged the state government to step up surveillance and recommended the use of the Aarogya Setu app. He asked the state to ensure that protective equipment supplied to healthcare workers is up to the Indian Council of Medical Research's quality standards. He also recommended setting up a grievance redressal system for COVID-related queries and focusing on migrant workers in the state.