A day after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wrote to Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) denied charges levelled by Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla. TMC said that by claiming that the state government is not allowing movement of essential goods through the Indo- Bangladesh border, Bhalla is "trying to please his political bosses in Delhi".
Senior TMC leader and MP Sougata Roy said, "The central government is playing a political game and is using the services of bureaucrats who are obligated to the political leadership of the central government. Otherwise they would have known that state has not objected to the opening of the borders for cargo movement. It had to be stopped because of tremendous local agitation. As we dont believe in using police force, talks have started with the locals so that services can be resumed," he told PTI.
Officials of the Petrapole land port authorities on Tuesday said they are trying to hold talks with local people and the state government in order to resume Indo-Bangladesh trade, which was stopped on May 2 after two days of operation following protests by local people. They had said villagers are afraid that truck drivers and labourers might spread coronavirus infection when they return from Benapole, located on the other side of the border and have been affected by the disease.
As per the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, West Bengal currently has 1456 confirmed Covid cases, 364 have recovered while 144 deaths have been reported.
Referring to the second letter by Bhalla, Roy said that it has a 'subliminal political tilt, which is devoid of facts and figures'. "As far as COVID-19 management is concerned, West Bengal is doing its best. It ranks 10th in terms of infected people. But the Centre is not sending letters to states suchas Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, where the number of such people is much higher," the senior TMC leader said. "If at all there is short of tests, the fault lies entirely with the Centre, which has not only sent less number of kits but those faulty Chinese kits are faulty also. The state government is also doing its best to enforce stricter lockdown," Roy said. The West Bengal government alleged last month that the COVID-19 testing kits supplied by the NICED, the Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) nodal agency in the state, were "apparently defective".
In a new development amid series of disagreements between the Centre and West Bengal government led by Mamata Banerjee, now the MHA has written to the state on the closure of the border with Bangladesh. In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha earlier in the day, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla, said that the Mamata government has taken unilateral action to stop cross-border movement of essential goods along the border with Bangladesh. The MHA warned that the decision will have larger international implications. Directing the state government to open the border, MHA added that such action by the state is a violation of the Disaster Management Act.
In another letter, the MHA alleged that West Bengal has the highest rate of COVID-19 fatalities, low testing and worrying instances of attacks on frontline workers. "The response to COVID-19 in the state of West Bengal is characterised by a very low rate of testing in proportion to the population, and a very high rate of mortality of 13.2 per cent for the state, by far the highest for any state. This is a reflection of poor surveillance, detection and testing in the state. There is also a need to increase random testing in crowded clusters," Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said in a two-page letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha.