Mamata Banerjee questions Centre’s move to send teams to Bengal, says “won’t be able to move ahead on this” unless reason is clear

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday reacted sharply against the Centre’s decision to send two Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) to the state to “assess” the COVID-19 situation in Bengal.

She took to Twitter to state that while all constructive support and suggestions were welcome, especially from the Centre, the basis on which these teams were being sent to Bengal, remained unclear. She urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to share with the government the “criterion” on the basis of which the decision to send two teams had been taken. “Until then I am afraid, we would not be able to move ahead on this as without valid reasons this might not be consistent with the spirit of federalism”, Banerjee took to Twitter to state.

Her reaction is being seen in political circles as a strong message for the Centre as “health” is a state subject, and Banerjee has been insisting over the past few weeks how difficult it has been for the state to cope with the crisis in the absence of financial support from the Centre. The Bengal CM though, did not clarify what she meant by not being able to “move ahead on this”.

The Home Ministry, in an order issued on Sunday, has said that the situation with respect to COVID-19 is “especially serious” in certain parts of Bengal like Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri and two teams will be sent to these areas to assess the situation. Central teams are also being sent to Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

In the order for West Bengal, the ministry mentioned that “in some districts of the country, a number of violations to the lockdown measures have been reported including violence on healthcare professionals, on social distancing norms outside banks, PDS shops, market places, movement of passenger and commercial vehicles with passengers in urban areas.

The Central teams will “make an on the spot assessment of the situation, issue necessary directions to the state authorities” and submit their report to the Central government. They will also focus on issues of supply of essential commodities, social distancing, movement of people outside their homes, preparedness of health infrastructure, hospital facility and sample statistics, safety of health professionals, availability of test kits, PPEs, masks, other safety equipment, condition of labour camps for the labourers and the poor.

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