Kolkata, April 20 (IANS) In a sharp escalation of its standoff with the Centre, the West Bengal government on Monday threatened to not allow the Inter Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) to move around in the state unless it had a clear idea about their needs or why they want to go for field visits.
Earlier, the Union Home Ministry had said that IMCTs have been formed to make on-spot assessment of the Covid 19 situation in selected districts, including a few in Bengal.
“Till we have a clear idea about what the team needs or why they want to go (to the field), we won’t allow them to move around,” Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said.
Soon after the Centre announced the constitution of the teams, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fired the first salvo, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to share the criterion for sending them.
Taking to Twitter, Banerjee said that without ‘valid reason’, the step to send IMCTs wouldn’t be consistent with the spirit of federalism.
“I urge both Honb’le Prime Minister @NarendraModi Ji & Home Minister @AmitShah Ji to share the criterion used for this. 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,” she said.
Sinha breathed more fire, as he alleged that the two teams which landed in Kolkata and north Bengal’s Bagdogra headed straight for field visits from the airports accompanied by Central paramilitary forces like SSB and BSF.
“As per the communication from the Centre, these teams are supposed to contact the state government and get feedback from us. Then, if need be, they would go for field visit,” he said.
“But the teams after landing in the state have straightaway gone for field visits from the airports with the SSB or the BSF. This is violation of the Home Ministry’s internal circular. They are behaving as if we are hiding something,” he added.
Sinha also alleged that the state was merely informed about a team coming to Kolkata from Delhi.
“But within 15 minutes the team landed in Kolkata. That means we were only formally informed about the team’s visit after the team had flown off for Kolkata.
“I think they should have contacted the state government first. If the team has experts or those who can advise us, or coordinate between us and the Centre, or help us in getting equipment like PPE kits, we would have welcomed them. But we are unable to accept the way they have straightaway headed for the field after landing,” he said.
Sinha said he has asked the Kolkata IMCT members to meet him for a briefing. “They will meet me today. I have told the North Bengal team to talk to me over phone,” he said.
Expressing his dismay over the Central teams taking paramilitary personnel with them, he said, “It is as if the SSB, BSF are an opponent force, and so they are moving around with them.”
Sinha also saw no logic behind the Centre sending the teams to Bengal.
“They say teams are being sent in those areas where there are more number of Covid-19 cases. But in Jalpaiguri we found the last case on April 4. Only five cases have been reported from the district,” he said.
He said similarly, the last cases were reported from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and East Midnapore on April 16, April 2 and April 19, respectively.