Faceoff between WB CM Mamata Banerjee and Centre reaches flash point

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The faceoff between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankar has reached a flash point on Tuesday (April 21) with the central government intervening in the issue.

The two headed on a collision course over the issue of Central teams visiting the state to review implementation of the coronavirus lockdown. The Governor came out against the government after the central team reported lack of cooperation from the state authorities.

The Ministry of Home Affairs came to the rescue of the Governor by directing Mamata to allow the two inter-ministerial central teams sent to review implementation of lockdown measures in select districts to carry out their duties to do their job.

The letter complained that the teams comprising public health specialists and officers of disaster management authority were not provided with require cooperation by the state authorities. Instead of leveraging the expertise of the teams by the state for managing the Covid-19 pandemic, the teams have been restrained from interacting with professionals and assessing ground-level situation in the state.

The home ministry letter noted that it amounted to obstructing the implementation of the orders issued by the central government under the Disaster Management Act and the directions of the Supreme Court. It urged the government to allow Central teams to work freely.

The West Bengal chief minister was irked by the Centre’s decision to send the team without proper consultation and discussions with the state authorities. State Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha raised the issue in a press conference.

“How can a team of the central government land in Kolkata within 15 minutes of the state authorities being informed?” Sinha asked.

"The Centre has not given any prior information to the state at all. It is a big issue. We are here to facilitate them. We will not allow them to enter the state. If they think that with help of BSF or SSB, they can travel to any place of their choice, they are mistaken,” he added.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also wrote a strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing her concerns. She termed the Centre’s decision as ‘unilateral’ and ‘undesirable’.

The ruling Trinamool Congress also joined the issue alleging that while the states in India were fighting a battle against novel coronavirus, the Narendra Modi-led Central government was fighting some states instead of fighting the virus, said a Hindustan Times report.

“About 70%-80% of the districts chosen for the Central teams’ visits are from states ruled by opposition parties. Why no district from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat is part of the list?” O’Brien, who is party’s Rajya Sabha member, asked.

Two teams from the union government landed in Kolkata on Monday to visit seven districts to review implementation of the lockdown and moves taken by the health administration.

Image Credit: Daily Star

 

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