West Bengal government not cooperating: Home ministry

New Delhi: The Union home ministry has directed the West Bengal government to extend cooperation to the inter-ministerial central teams (ICMT) in the state to assess the Covid-19 situation after team members could not make field visits on Tuesday.

“It has been brought to the notice of this ministry that both IMCTs at Kolkata and Jalpaiguri, respectively, have not been provided with the requisite cooperation by the state and local authorities. They have been specifically restrained from making visits, interacting with health professionals and assessing the ground level situation,” the MHA said in its letter to the West Bengal chief secretary. “This amounts to obstructing implementation of orders issued by the central government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and equally binding directions of the Supreme Court,” it said while directing the chief secretary to make arrangements for IMCTs to carry out such responsibilities as entrusted to them vide the aforesaid order.

NDMA officials who were part of the central team in Kolkata told ET that there were serious contraventions to MHA guidelines. During their meeting with chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, the central team was informed that they will be provided with daily data but cannot be allowed to visit areas. Apurva Chandra, the leader of one of the two teams sent to the state, claimed its members were told they “will not be going out”. An Additional secretary in the defence ministry, Chandra said: “Our order of deployment says the state government is to provide logistic (al) support to us… I have been in touch with the chief secretary and seeking his support since the time I landed here. I had also met him yesterday. But today we have been informed that there are some issues so we are not going out. Now it is more than one day and we have only visited NICED (an ICMR facility) and the state secretariat only.”

The Trinamool Congress dubbed the team’s visit as “adventure tourism”. Addressing a digital press conference, Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien said “the IMCT is on adventure tourism”. He asked why central teams did not visit states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh which had higher number of cases and many more hotspots. Why are central teams sent to West Bengal which does not appear in the list of the top 10 states in terms of infection, he asked. Participating in the videoconference, his colleague Sudip Bandyopadhyay reiterated the claim that CM Mamata Banerjee was informed about the ICMT visit three hours after their arrival. “The motive behind sending such teams is not yet clear.”

With PTI inputs from Kolkata

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