In meeting with PM, Mamata Banerjee accuses Centre of “bulldozing federal structure” & “targetting” Bengal
At a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday – in which he met chief ministers across the country over videoconferencing – West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee told him that the Centre should not “bulldoze the federal structure” of the country. She said that the Centre has been “attacking the Bengal government” when it should advise the state on fighting the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Banerjee said that Bengal was being targeted for political gains.
The Centre and the West Bengal government have been on a collision course for the past few weeks over the COVID-19 situation. From sending Central government teams to writing letters to chief minister Mamata Banerjee and chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, the Centre has pointed out “lapses” by the Bengal government.
The Bengal government too has pointed out that faulty kits for COVID-19 tests were sent to the state, and that the CM was informed about the coming of the Central teams after they had already been sent to Bengal. Banerjee had also questioned the decision to send the teams to West Bengal and had earlier said that enough kits for COVID-19 tests were not sent to Bengal.
The PM held the meeting on Monday with chief ministers of all the states to discuss a phased exit plan from the nationwide lockdown.
During the meeting, Banerjee alleged that the Centre is trying to politicise the crisis and that no state or its people should be blamed for having a higher number of COVID-19 cases. She said that this is a time for cooperation and not playing blame game. She is also reported to have said that the states have followed the Centre’s guidelines, but now, when the expected results of the lockdown may not have been achieved, the states were being blamed. She also alleged that the Centre has kept open different sectors and different types of establishments but was asking the states to strictly implement the lockdown, and this was contradictory. She said that the states should be authorised to implement the lockdown as well as to lift restrictions depending on the situation on the ground, which the Centre could not gauge.
The Prime Minister is reported to have told the CMs that they should ensure that COVID-19 does not spread to rural areas even if the lockdown is relaxed at some places.
Chief ministers of Punjab and Chhattisgarh reportedly suggested that the lockdown should be extended after May 17. Also, the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Telangana are reported to have requested the PM to not start train services to their states till May 31. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is said to have requested that economic activities should be allowed outside containment zones.