Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien on Tuesday alleged that the West Bengal government was not informed in advance about the visit of the Centre’s inter-ministerial teams to review the coronavirus situation in the state, ANI reported. The MP termed the visit as “adventure tourism” and questioned why teams were not sent to states with much higher number of cases and hotspots.
On Monday, the home ministry sent six teams led by senior bureaucrats to West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to ensure that the lockdown measures are implemented strictly by their governments. The ministry spokesperson had said that the situation was “especially serious” in Indore, Jaipur, Mumbai and Pune. In West Bengal, Kolkata, Howrah, Medinipur East, 24 Parganas North, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri districts had troubling situations.
“If you wanted adventurous tourism without informing the state government, calling up a CM [chief minister] three hours after you have arrived and the chief secretary half an hour before, then that is not the spirit of federalism,” O’Brien told reporters in a virtual press conference.
The Trinamool Congress leader questioned the Centre’s criteria of choosing states where the inter-ministerial central teams would be sent. “We want to ask the prime minister and home minister what were the parameters by which the states have been selected.” he said. “Out of the six states which have been chosen, five are Opposition states.”
O’Brien asked why central teams did not visit states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh with higher number of coronavirus cases and many more hotspots.
O’Brien and the party’s Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said it was not a question of “state vs state” and appealed to the Centre to cooperate with them, PTI reported. They said the Narendra Modi government was fighting some states instead of fighting the coronavirus, according to Hindustan Times.
O’Brien said that sending central teams to the state without consulting the state government in advance was an “anti-federal campaign”.
The MPs said West Bengal would be happy to coordinate with the government once they follow proper protocols.
Meanwhile, Bandyopadhyay said that 425 tests are conducted everyday in the state, adding that the number the number would be increased to 600 from today.
Central teams not getting logistical support in Bengal, says official
Apurva Chandra, additional secretary and inter-ministerial central team leader, told ANI that all states were given the same notice as West Bengal government and others have faced no problem. “Teams have gone to other states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, there they are getting full support of state governments and all of them are working,” he added.
He added that the teams have asked the Trinamool Congress to provide support to visit areas but it has been more than a day. “We have only visited Nabanna and NICED [National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases],” Chandra said. “These are the only two places we have visited since we came here yesterday morning. Our order of deployment also says that the state government is to provide logistic support to us.
“I have been in touch with chief secretary,” Chandra added. “We also met him last evening at Nabanna, we were assured that we will again have a meeting and we’ll be taken around. But today we were informed that there are some issues and we will not be going out.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on Monday said while she appreciated the Centre’s proactive stand in dealing with the crisis, sending teams without intimating the state in advance was a “breach of protocol”.
The state has recorded 392 cases of Covid-19 and 12 deaths, according to data from the health ministry.