Over the ongoing scuffle between the West Bengal government and the Centre amid the Coronavirus pandemic which has claimed 590 lives in the country so far, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha on Tuesday. In the letter to the state's chief secretary, Bhalla highlighted that the state and local authorities have not been co-operating with the two Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) deployed to review the lockdown measures. Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs had flagged the state thrice for reports of lockdown violations across the state.
In the letter, the Chief Home Secretary has also highlighted that both the IMCTs deployed in the state at Kolkata and Jalpaiguri respectively, have not been provided with requisite co-operation 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," Bhalla stated in his letter to the Bengal Chief Secretary. Earlier, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had refused to comply with the IMCTs claiming that it is against federalism.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla writes to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha. Letter states,"It has been brought to notice of this ministry that both IMCTs, at Kolkata & Jalpaiguri respectively, have not been provided with requisite cooperation by state & local authorities" pic.twitter.com/yukzKy32PU— ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2020
The state has so far reported 392 positive cases while 73 have recovered from the diseases. Bengal has also witnessed 12 deaths due to the virus. However, state Governor Jagdeep Dhankar had earlier stated that he had received inputs regarding incorrect data of a number of cases in the state.
IMCT leader Apurva Chandra also stated that the team is only facing problem in West Bengal and not in any other state. "We came here yesterday morning and since then we have been asking the state government to provide us logistic support and now it has been more than one day and we have only visited Nabanna and NICED. These are the only two places we have visited," Chandra told ANI.
The IMCTs comprise of officers from various departments, including the NDMA, public health specialists from the Department of Health and Consumer Affairs. The teams have been fanned out to various states to contain the spread of COVID-19, but are faced with roadblocks in West Bengal.
"IMCT teams have gone to other states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, there they are getting the full support of state governments. They were given the same notice as West Bengal, but they have faced no problems since yesterday," Chandra added.
The Union Home Ministry-constituted IMCTs are crucial bodies, which visit coronavirus hotspots for assessment, issue directions to combat the spread of the lethal virus in those areas and submit a report to the central government.