Coronavirus Outbreak: Centre making conflicting statements on lockdown, not providing funds to states, alleges Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday claimed the Centre is making contradictory statements on enforcement of the lockdown, and alleged funds are not being provided to the state for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Press Trust of India April 27, 2020 23:21:27 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: Centre making conflicting statements on lockdown, not providing funds to states, alleges Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday claimed the Centre is making contradictory statements on enforcement of the lockdown, and alleged funds are not being provided to the state for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing a press conference after attending a meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi held with chief ministers through video  conferencing, Banerjee said she has a "hunch from the prime minister's body language" that the lockdown may continue beyond 3 May. However, there was no confirmation.

 <span class=Coronavirus Outbreak Centre making conflicting statements on lockdown not providing funds to states alleges Mamata Banerjee" width="380" height="285" />

File image of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Noting that many chief ministers and their representatives could not speak owing to the rotation system, she said, given a chance she would have raised several questions, including the need to send central teams to West Bengal.

"The Centre is making conflicting statements on lockdown. There is no clarity. We are in favour of lockdown. But the Centre on one hand emphasises on enforcement of the lockdown, and on the other hand it issues order to open shops," Banerjee said.

"If you open shops, how will you enforce lockdown? I think the Centre should come out with a clarification," she said, maintaining that once the Centre provides greater clarity, the state government would take a call on reopening standalone shops.

Banerjee lauded the efforts of states in containing the pandemic and said the Union government is sending central teams to states but not giving them funds to stop the spread of the contagion.

"The Centre is sending teams, issuing new circulars and giving us lectures but it is not doing enough to release the funds to combat the pandemic. I don't have any problem with the circulars but there must be some consultation. They should have asked for the opinion of states. Bengal has done a great job so far in fighting the pandemic," she said.

Banerjee said smaller states were allowed to speak at the meeting and it would have been better if larger states were permitted, too. "We could have raised the issues relating to the need or sending central teams and lack of clarity regarding the orders issued by the Union government. We were just mute spectators during today's meeting," she said.

When asked whether the lockdown would be extended, she said the decision will be taken by the central government and the state will abide by it.

"Although the prime minister didnt say anything (about extension), I had a hunch from his words and body language that the lockdown might continue," she said, adding demarcation of containment and non-containment zones and the plans to stem the spread of the disease will remain in place till 21 May.

Criticising the central government for putting on hold the increment in Dearness Allowance (DA) of its employees, Banerjee wanted to know why funds have been kept aside for rebuilding the Central Vista in Delhi.

"We have not taken any such decision to slash the salaries of our employees. What is the need for keeping aside funds for the construction of a new Parliament building? Why is the Centre not revamping ongoing projects to raise funds? We have done it in our state, where we have revamped several projects," she said.

Demanding that the RBI release funds at lower interest rates to states, she said the Centre should review the 15th Finance Commission allocations as the economic situation has changed following the COVID-19 -induced lockdown.

If tea garden employees are not getting wages, MNREGA workers not getting work, Centre has to bear responsibility, Banerjee said.

The chief minister also announced the formation of a cabinet committee on COVID-19 management to be led by Finance Minister Amit Mitra.

The chief minister said the state government has decided to allow home delivery of non-essential items. The list of areas under red, orange and green zones, categorised according to the intensity and spread of the disease, will also be made public, she said.

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