Centre's COVID-19 team stopped from leaving hotel in Bengal
Already on two ends of the political spectrum, the BJP-led Centre and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool locked horns again today when a team was sent to the state to assess COVID-19 spread. The Trinamool claimed only states ruled by the opposition were being scrutinized. Meanwhile, the team, which was sent to capital Kolkata, alleged they were stopped from leaving the hotel. Here are more details.
To understand on-ground situation, Centre sent teams to states
Throughout India's battle with COVID-19, states and Centre have largely been on the same page. But, recently the federal government has sent six teams to understand the situation on the ground. The places where teams were sent are Pune (Maharashtra), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Kolkata, Howrah, Midnapur East, 24 Parganas North, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri (Bengal) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh). Three states are ruled by the opposition.
Explain why teams were sent to Bengal, Banerjee asked Modi
Yesterday, Banerjee wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an explanation of why teams were sent to her home state. Earlier, there were reports that the nationwide lockdown and social distancing guidelines aren't being adhered to strictly in the state. In the letter, she wrote she spoke to Home Minister Amit Shah at 1 pm but the team landed at 10:10 am.
Banerjee also expressed her discontent on Twitter
Cannot accept this behavior, said Chief Secretary
"They are behaving as if we are hiding something. We will not let them roam around in the state. The way they have come and gone to the field with the BSF, we cannot accept this," Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha said.
"Why no teams were sent to Gujarat and UP?"
This morning, Trinamool's Derek O'Brien also fumed at the decision to send teams and opined PM Modi was not fighting the virus but some state governments. "About 70-80% of the districts chosen for the Central teams' visits are from states ruled by opposition parties. Why no district from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat is part of the list," Derek asked.
Derek reminded their precautions were called a "gimmick"
"When we washed our hands or wore marks in the Parliament, it was called a gimmick. We did not ask why the Centre woke up late because our chairperson asked us to refrain from indulging in politics at this hour," Derek said.
Meanwhile, Centre's team is stuck in hotel
Amid the tussle between Centre and the state, the inter-ministerial central team (ICMT) in Kolkata was not allowed to leave the hotel. Apurva Chandra, a senior Defense Ministry official said they were to visit a few places today but were informed of "some issues". He said other states also received the notice around the time Bengal did, but they didn't lodge a protest.
12 have died in Bengal of COVID-19
On a related note, Bengal currently has 392 COVID-19 cases and 12 have died. The state government has claimed that from three of the four districts on the Centre's watchlist, no fresh case has been reported in the last 14 days. Earlier, the Centre underlined if no new cases emerge from the red zones for 28 days, it will be labeled a green zone.