KOLKATA: Taking umbrage at the Centre for sending teams to assess the "serious" COVID-19 situation in the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, underscoring the "unilateral" and "undesirable" action, keeping her government in the dark.
The Union home ministry said on Monday the COVID-19 situation is "especially serious" in Mumbai, Pune, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata and a few other places in West Bengal, and that violation of lockdown measures may facilitate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Union government has formed six inter-ministerial central teams (IMCTs) for an on-the-spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation in these places and issue necessary directions to the four states -- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
While one central team arrived in Kolkata, another reached Jalpaiguri district on Monday.
Claiming that she was informed by "Union Home Minister Amit Shah late in the afternoon, whereas the central teams already landed in the state in the morning hours", the feisty Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo said this was a breach of established protocols.
"The central teams kept the state in the dark, approached the BSF for logistic support and were moving in the field without informing the West Bengal government," she wrote to Modi.
The places mentioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs include Kolkata, Howrah, East Medinipur, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.
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. (2/2)— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 20, 2020
"I am sure you will kindly agree that such unilateral action on the part of the central government is not desirable at all, especially when both the central and state governments are working together relentlessly round the clock to contain the COVID-19 crisis," the chief minister said.
Earlier in the afternoon, in a series of tweets, Banerjee sought to know the rationale behind the formation of the IMCTs and urged the prime minister and home minister to share the criterion for the assessment, without which her government "would not be able to move ahead".
Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, too, criticised the Centre's move to send teams to the state.
State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said the Centre is "pursuing politics" to demean the efforts of the TMC government in containing the infection.
His views were echoed by senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty, who said this was not the time for "petty Centre-state politics" as everybody has to work unitedly in the fight against the pandemic.
"It is true that the state is faulting on some aspects, but this is not the time for the Centre to play politics in order to score political points," Chakraborty said.
West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh voiced support to the Centre's move and said the truth about the "lacklustre attitude" of the state government must be "exposed".
"The central government did the right thing by sending teams. They would surely unravel how the lockdown is being violated and the state government is trying to hide the real picture," he said.