Upon receiving allegations from the Opposition over 'irregularities' in the State's Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee replaced state Food Secretary Manoj Agarwal with Parvej Ahmed Siddiqui on Thursday. Additionally, she also transferred district magistrates of Darjeeling, Priya P, and West Bardhhaman, Shahshank Shethi.
Mamata asked the Opposition to refrain from indulging in politics over foodgrain distribution during the COVID-19 crisis and justified her move stating that the Bengal Government is taking steps to ensure that ration is provided to all beneficiaries during the lockdown.
“Some households did not get a sufficient amount. The ration shops concerned lacked sufficient stock and storage space. I want to assure people that each of them would get foodgrain at the ration shops,” the Chief Minister told media after chairing a Cabinet meeting at the State Secretariat.
“Though 90 per cent ration was distributed, some abnormalities were noticed. So, we have decided to change the departmental secretary,” she added.
As per sources, Mamata Banerjee was unhappy with the previous food secretary as he did not follow her orders and distributed wheat instead of rice under the PDS. Priya P was replaced by Ponnambalam S as the new DM of Darjeeling. The Government also replaced Bardhhaman DM Shashank Shethi with Purnendu Majhi.
In a controversial move, the West Bengal government extended the window for sweet shops to remain open for eight hours now, amid the Coronavirus lockdown. Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that sweet shops will be allowed to operate from 8 am to 4 pm every day as opposed to the government's earlier allowance of shops to operate for four hours from 12 noon to 4 pm.
Bengal has so far reported 231 confirmed cases of COVID-19 of which 42 patients have recovered while seven have died due to the infection. Kolkata, Howrah, Medinipur East, and North 24 Pargana are major hotspot districts in the State with large outbreaks, according to the Union Health Ministry.