NEW DELHI: Worried over multiple violations to the lockdown measures in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Centre has rushed six inter-ministerial teams to 10 districts of these states for an on-the-spot assessment.
Such incidents could pose a “serious health hazard”, the Centre warned.
The central teams will issue necessary directions to state authorities for remedial measures and report back to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The teams, led by officials of additional secretary rank, have been dispatched to Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Mumbai and Pune (Maharashtra) and Kolkata, Howrah, East Medinipur, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri (West Bengal).
The Centre issued identical orders to the four states saying that many incidents of violence against COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers, large-scale violation of social distancing norms and movement of vehicles in urban areas, had been observed.
The MHA said large-scale violation of social distancing norms had been observed outside banks, PDS shops and in market places. Besides, the movement of private and commercial vehicles with passengers in urban areas had been observed, it added.
Such violations in hotspot districts, emerging hotspots with large outbreaks and clusters pose a serious health hazard, not only to the local population but to those living in other parts of the country as well, the MHA noted.
According to the Union health ministry data, there were 4,203 cases with 223 deaths in Maharashtra, 1,407 and 70 in Madhya Pradesh, 1,478 and 14 in Rajasthan, and 339 and 12 in West Bengal as on Monday.
In his communication with the states, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also quoted the Supreme Court’s observation that the top court all state governments should faithfully comply with the directives and orders issued by the Centre in letter and spirit.
Bhalla also wrote to the Kerala Chief Secretary about the state’s decision to allow the opening of restaurants, barbershops and MSME industries, and bus travel. The Home Secretary said that state government’s moves amount to dilution of the lockdown guidelines.
However, the Centre’s decision evoked sharp reaction from most states. While leaders of the Vikas Agadhi government in Maharashtra questioned the intention of the Centre in “targeting non-BJP ruled states”, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the problem of shortage of food grains and movement of migrant workers could have been avoided if the lockdown had been properly thought out.
Kerala U-turn after MHA’s objection
After the Centre’s rap, the Kerala government on Monday decided not to allow plying of buses in cities, opening of restaurants a pillion riding on two-wheelers even as it asserted that there will not be any compromise on precautions.