West Bengal cooperating with central teams on COVID-19, but can't roam around with them, says chief secretary Rajiva Sinha

The West Bengal government is cooperating with the inter-ministerial central teams visiting the state to assess COVID-19 situation, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said on Tuesday, but made it clear they cannot roam around with them leaving all work to fight the pandemic.

Press Trust of India April 21, 2020 23:43:25 IST
West Bengal cooperating with central teams on COVID-19, but can't roam around with them, says chief secretary Rajiva Sinha

Kolkata: The West Bengal government is cooperating with the inter-ministerial central teams visiting the state to assess COVID-19 situation, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said on Tuesday, but made it clear they cannot roam around with them leaving all work to fight the pandemic.

"We are helping them. There's no question of not doing that. But our stand is that we all are busy in fighting coronavirus ... they cannot get information sitting in cars or at the guest house.

West Bengal cooperating with central teams on COVID19 but cant roam around with them says chief secretary Rajiva Sinha

File image of Mamata Banerjee. PTI

"We will share all information they want, taking time out of our busy schedule, but we will not be able to roam around with the central team shutting all our work, Sinha told reporters at the state secretariat.

Sinha's comments came after the Union Home Ministry said the West Bengal government was not cooperating with the central teams visiting the state for on-the-spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation.

The arrival of two teams from Delhi, without prior information here, for an on-the-spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation has become the latest flashpoint between the Centre and the state government.

In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Sinha, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said it has been brought to the notice of the ministry that the two inter-ministerial central teams, visiting Kolkata and Jalpaiguri, have not been provided with the requisite cooperation by the state and local authorities.

Sinha criticised the manner in which the teams were sent to the state by the central government.

He said despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi protesting the visit of the central teams to West Bengal, he met the representatives at the state secretariat on Monday and met them again on Tuesday morning at the place where they have put up.

"In this (federal) set-up, it would have been a good thing if the Centre had given us a prior intimation that teams are sent to West Bengal. The chief minister has written a letter to the prime minister protesting this.

"Despite that the team led by Apurva Chandra met me at the secretariat yesterday. We had briefed him. I met them again this morning at the BSF guest house at Gurusaday Road. They told me they want to go around the city. We said we will be providing one officer to accompany them and they can go wherever they want to within Kolkata... and today they moved around in the city," Sinha said.

The IAS official went on saying, "Any form of Centre-state feud is not desired but it will not be correct if you blame the state only for that. Both sides should show similar discipline, and we are expecting that."

"We have told them (the team in Kolkata) to take all precautionary measures if they are visiting any hotspot area. We have also urged them not to get down from the vehicles frequently, and if they want to, they must enquire whether it is safe to move around that particular place or not... We have to look after their safety and security," the official said.

The chief secretary further stated that if the team visiting Kolkata expresses wish to go to areas in Howrah, North and South 24 Parganas district, the state will think over it.

They have not expressed desire to go to other places apart from Kolkata, but if they want to visit Howrah and North 24 Parganas we will think on it, he said.

Sinha, however, was critical of the team visiting North Bengal and said they should have met him before straightaway going to the northern districts.

They should have met the chief secretary because he is only authorised to meet any representatives from the central government. hey violated the protocol, he said.

"I spoke to them (team in North Bengal) on Monday and twice on Tuesday. I am in touch with the team and have shared the progress to the team leader. If they want to go anywhere we will look into it before deciding," Sinha said.

Asked when will the teams be leaving, he said, "They have not been invited by us as a guest so we do not know about that".

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