KOLKATA: An early relief from the COVID-19 crisis is unlikely, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday, and underscored the need for a three-month plan to deal with the situation.
Targeting the BJP-led Centre, Banerjee said people were facing problems since the imposition of the lockdown on March 25 as the move was "poorly planned".
She also lashed out at the saffron party for allegedly instigating communal clashes in the state, amid the shutdown.
Stressing the need to revitalise economy, she said more relaxations were in the offing for red and green zones in the state.
"Don't think we will get relief from the COVID-19 crisis anytime soon. We should have a three-month short-term plan in place to tackle the situation. I have told district magistrates and police superintendents that this situation will continue but we need to focus on relaxations and revival of the economy," Banerjee said after a review meeting with state officials.
"Our rural economy has been hit. There must be a balance between tackling the pandemic and saving livelihoods," she said.
Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief, said areas in red zones will be divided into three categories.
"Red zones in the state will be further divided into categories A, B and C. Zone A will have no relaxations, zone B will have some relaxations with adherence to social distancing and zone C will comprise areas outside containment zones. Essential goods and services will be available in zone C," she said.
District magistrates, along with senior police personnel, will decide on reopening of shops and availability of services in red zones, the chief minister said, adding that buses and taxis will be allowed to ply only in green zones.
"Editing and dubbing activities for film and television may resume, provided those involved strictly follow safety guidelines. Shooting, however, will not be allowed for now," she said.
Talking about her interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his video conference with chief ministers on Monday, Banerjee said Bengal gained nothing out of the meeting and was left "empty-handed".
The Centre is yet to clear the "legitimate financial dues" of the state, she claimed.
"I have raised several issues during the meeting with the prime minister. But I must say we always return empty-handed after meeting with the prime minister. We are yet to get our dues," the chief minister said.
Rebuffing claims that the state government was trying to fudge COVID-19 figures, Banerjee said the allegations were levelled to malign West Bengal.
"When Bengal took a decision on reporting co-morbidity, we were criticised. Now other states are following suit. We never hid anything," she said.
Slamming a section of BJP leaders for allegedly instigating communal clashes, Banerjee said those found guilty will not be spared.
"Stern action will be taken against those involved in communal clashes amid the lockdown. No one will be spared if found guilty of fomenting trouble," she said, referring to the violence that erupted last week in Hooghly district.
"People are already under so much stress due to this COVID-19 crisis. Add to that, some leaders are writing provocative posts to create problems. Yesterday, I told the prime minister how some central ministers were trying to invite trouble. A year to go before the assembly elections but one political party is getting impatient," Banerjee said.
Clashes had erupted in Telinipara area of West Bengal's Hooghly district after members of one community were allegedly addressed as "corona" by a handful of locals belonging to another group.
Asserting that the Centre should have given "two-three days" before imposing the lockdown, she said migrants workers would not have suffered if the move was carefully planned.
"Had there been two-three days, the migrated labourers would have got the window to return home. This crisis could have been averted. In Bengal, we are dealing with the crisis with utmost sincerity, but there are reports that labourers from the state are being ill-treated elsewhere. They are being beaten up in Gujarat, Delhi and some other states. This is unacceptable," Banerjee said.
Responding to the allegation that Bengal was not doing enough to bring home workers, the TMC boss said the state will be sending nine trains for migrants stranded in other states and was planning to deploy more in a phased manner.
Steps would be taken to restart 100-day work scheme in the state for the labourers, she said.
"A total of nine trains carrying stranded people are scheduled to arrive in Bengal. Hundred more trains will be used for the purpose in a phased manner. Buses have also been deployed. More than 90,000 people have returned to the state in buses," the chief minister said.