The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday directed the West Bengal government to allow two inter-ministerial central teams, or IMCTs, sent to review implementation of Covid-19 lockdown measures in select districts of the state, to carry out their duties, PTI reported. The leader of the IMCTs had earlier in the day said that the ruling Trinamool Congress was not providing the teams access to some districts.
“We have only visited Nabanna and NICED [National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases],” Apurva Chandra had 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.” However, he added, this had not been granted.
In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that it has been brought to the notice of the ministry that the teams have not been allowed access to Kolkata and Jalpaiguri cities. “In fact, they have been specifically restrained from making any visits, interacting with health professionals, and assessing the ground level situation,” he said. “This amounts to obstructing the implementation of the orders issued by the central government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and equally binding directions of the Honorable Supreme Court.”
Union Home Ministry Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava also raised the matter during the Centre’s daily briefing on the Covid-19 situation in the country. She said that while Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been cooperating with the IMCTs, West Bengal has been obstructing their work.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien had earlier in the day reiterated West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that the state was not informed in advance about the visit of the teams. He labelled the visit “adventure tourism” and wondered why teams were not sent to states with a 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.
India has so far reported 18,985 coronavirus cases and 603 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.