MHA directs West Bengal govt not to obstruct central teams assessing lockdown measures; TMC dubs visit 'adventure tourism'
Centre has directed the West Bengal government not to obstruct the work of two central teams visiting the state for an on-the-spot assessment of implementation of lockdown measures taken to fight novel coronavirus
New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday directed the West Bengal government not to obstruct the work of two central teams visiting the state for an on-the-spot assessment of implementation of lockdown measures taken to fight novel coronavirus.
The home ministry said the West Bengal government is not cooperating with the central teams visiting the state to assess the ground situation and are specifically restraining them from interacting with health workers and touring the affected areas.
The Centre has directed the West Bengal government not to obstruct working of central teams in reviewing and making on the spot assessment of the implementation of lockdown measures, an official statement said.
The ruling Trinamool Congress, however, dubbed the visit of the central teams as "adventure tourism" and asked why such delegations were not sent to states with much higher numbers of infections and hotspots.
TMC MPs Derek O'Brien and Sudip Bandyopadhyay claimed that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was informed about the teams' visit three hours after their arrival in the state, which they said was unacceptable.
In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva 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.
"In fact, they have been specifically restrained from making any visits, interacting with health professionals, and assessing the ground level situation.
"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," Bhalla said.
The union home secretary said, therefore, the state government is directed to comply to make all necessary arrangements for the central teams to carry out such responsibilities as have been entrusted to them.
Home Ministry Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava also raised the issue at the daily media briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the country.
She said the Centre has sent the teams under the Disaster Management Act to four states -- Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
While Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are extending full support, the government in West Bengal is not doing so, she added.
Apurva Chandra, leader of one of the central teams visiting West Bengal, also said in Kolkata that other teams visiting Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are getting full support of the respective state governments.
"They were given the same notice as West Bengal but they have faced no problems," Chandra, an additional secretary-rank officer in the central government, said.
A total of six inter-ministerial central teams have been deputed to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal to review the implementation of lockdown measures.
Two of these teams have been sent to West Bengal -- one team to Kolkata, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and East Medinipur and the other team to Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong.
The teams comprise public health specialists and officers of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), whose expertise can be leveraged by the state government for management of COVID-19 pandemic.
The teams were deputed under the authority conferred on the Central Government under Section 35 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 which states that "..the central government shall take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of Disaster Management".
Bhalla, in his letter, also quoted a recent Supreme Court observation that the state governments will faithfully comply with the directives and orders issued by the Union of India in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety.
These observations of the apex court, the home secretary said, must be treated as directions and faithfully complied with.
The home ministry had said COVID-19 situation is "especially serious" in Mumbai, Pune, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata and a few other places in West Bengal, and violation of lockdown measures risk the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Acting swiftly, the ministry sent the six IMCTs to visit these worst coronavirus-affected areas to make on the spot assessment and recommend remedial measures besides submitting reports to the Centre.
In separate but identical orders sent on Sunday to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan, the home ministry said there have been several incidents of violence against COVID-19 frontline healthcare professionals, complete violation of social distancing norms and movement of vehicles in urban areas.
The home ministry said in some of the districts, a number of violations to the lockdown measures have been reported, posing a serious health hazard and risk for spread of COVID-19 which is against general interest of public, these violations include attacks on frontline healthcare professionals, complete violations of social distancing norms outside banks, PDS shops and in market places, movement of private and commercial vehicles with passengers in urban areas and so on.
These incidents, if they are allowed to occur without any restraining measures in hotspot districts or emerging hotspots, with large outbreaks or clusters, pose a serious health hazard, both for the population of these districts and for that living in other areas of the country, it said.
The man had scaled a boundary wall of Banerjee's private residence at 34B Harish Chatterjee Street in Kalighat area of the city at around 1.20 am on Sunday and remained there till morning
The current surge of coronavirus cases in Bengal might not be as dangerous as it was during its outbreak in 2020 but more and more people might be infected this year, they said
Meanwhile, Maharashtra reported 5,218 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. It is among ten other states which have been recording over 1,000 active cases