Covid-19: Central team goes around Kolkata escorted by Bengal police sleuths

Ghughuti Bulletin

inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) deployed to Kolkata for assessing the situation related to Covid-19 management and the ongoing lockdown began their field visits late in the afternoon on Tuesday after remaining put at a Border Security Force (BSF) facility since morning.

The team drove through various parts of the city, including Lake Gardens, Jadavpur, Bhowanipore, Ballygunge and Gariahat, after leaving their place of stay at about 5pm, around an hour after a strongly-worded letter from the Centre directing the state to provide all facilities to the IMCT.

The team leader, Apurva Chandra, earlier complained that despite giving assurances that they would be taken around, the state government informed them that “there are some issues, and we will not be going out.”

But some time after Chandra came up with his comment, the state government provided the team with Kolkata Police escort vehicles manned by anti-rowdy section officers of the detective department and a liaison officer early in the evening.

At around the same time, the Union home ministry told the media in Delhi that the state government was not cooperating with the IMCT delegation.

“The home ministry has received a feedback that the teams which have been deputed to Jalpaiguri and Kolkata in West Bengal, are not getting cooperation from the state government and the local administration.

“They are being stopped from visiting the region, they are not being given the scope to interact with health workers, or assess the ground level situation. This is a violation of the Central government order issued under the National Disaster Management Act,” a home ministry spokesperson said.

The home ministry also wrote to the state chief secretary directing the Bengal government to abide by the Centre’s order in this regard, and make all necessary arrangements so that the IMCT can carry out its responsibilities effectively.

The team, which landed here on Monday morning, held two rounds of meetings with state chief secretary Rajiva Sinha. While the first interaction took place on Monday at the state secretariat Nabanna, the second one happened at the BSF facility on Tuesday.

The team, which has put up at the BSF Officers’ Institute on Gurusaday Dutta Road in south Kolkata’s Ballygunge area, went out briefly in the morning but returned to their base after traversing only 500 metre.

Two Kolkata Police officers soon reached the institute and sought to know the team’s programme for the day.

The police then set up a post for checking on both ends of Gurusaday Dutta Road, and controlled vehicular movements.

The centre’s decision to send the team has triggered a big row, with the Trinamool Congress government of Chief Minister
Mamata Banerjee questioning the need for such a delegation.

Banerjee shot off a letter to Prime Minister Nareandra Modi on Monday, describing the Centre’s decision as “unilateral’, and alleging it was sent without prior intimation, causing ‘breach of established protocol’.

She also dubbed the Union government’s selection of districts with ‘serious’ Covid-19 situation as a ‘figment of imagination’.

The home ministry in a communication on Monday claimed violation of lockdown measures were reported from some districts in the country posing a serious health hazard and risk for spread of Covid-19.

Regarding West Bengal, it said: “The situation is especially serious in Kolkata, Howrah, Medinipur East, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri districts”.

Adopting a tough stand, the state government had threatened not to allow the IMCT to move around in the state unless it had a clear idea about their needs or why they wanted to go for field visits.

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