Bengal assures cooperation to Centre's COVID-19 teams sent for assessment
Earlier, the coronavirus pandemic fueled tensions between Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government and the Centre, ruled by BJP. But, the Bengal government assured on Tuesday that the visiting teams would be given full cooperation in the state. This assurance came hours after the Union Home Ministry alleged Banerjee's government of stopping the teams from doing their jobs of assessing the on-ground coronavirus situation.
While a nationwide lockdown has been imposed, the Centre sent six inter-ministerial central teams (ICMT) to Pune (Maharashtra), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Kolkata, Howrah, Midnapur East, 24 Parganas North, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri (Bengal) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh) to understand what was happening. Since most states cherry-picked by Centre are governed by the opposition, Bengal saw red and wondered whether BJP was battling coronavirus or states.
The team sent to inspect North Bengal didn't step out the entire day yesterday. The second one, tasked with scrutinizing Kolkata, left hotel in the morning but had to return after they were told about "some issues". Apurva Chandra, a senior Defense Ministry official, who headed the second team said none of the teams deployed to other states faced such problems.
On its part, the state government denied not helping the teams. In a letter sent to Ajay Bhalla, the Secretary of Union Home Ministry, West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said it was "not a fact" that there was no cooperation. This letter came hours after Bhalla wrote one to Sinha saying that states have to follow the Centre's words, as directed by Supreme Court.
In his letter, Bhalla spoke about alleged non-cooperation that teams got. "This amounts to obstructing the implementation of the Orders issued by the Central Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and equally binding directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court. You are, therefore, directed to comply with the MHA Order dated April 19, 2020, and make all necessary arrangements," the letter read.
Contradicting the allegations, Sinha wrote, "This is to convey my highest assurances for the implementation of the orders of central government issued under the Disaster Management Act as well as the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court." A Home Ministry official welcomed this development.
Further, Sinha also said there was no question of non-cooperation; it's just that the teams arrived in Bengal without any prior notice. "There was neither such opportunity to provide any logistic support nor the team asked for any," he claimed. Assuring the road ahead would be smooth, Sinha said the teams have now been apprised of steps taken by the government.