KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday criticised the Centre for not providing any data on the death of migrant labourers during the lockdown drawing sharp retort from the Congress and BJP which said that the state government should be transparent "before lecturing others".
Banerjee said every citizen is entitled to Right to Information, as the government is answerable and accountable to the people.
She was supported in this by Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury who, howver, went o to add that instead of pointing fingers at others "the state government should follow the path of transparency".
The BJP state leadership criticised the TMC government for, what it called, its "double standards".
Referring to the Centre's response during the monsoon session of Parliament that it does not have any data on the death of migrants, Banerjee said it is 'shocking" how the union government got exposed.
"Today is International Day for Universal Access to Information. It is shocking how GOI got exposed during the recent Parliament session. Most answers said 'no data available'. Every citizen has a right to information. The government is answerable and accountable to the people," Banerjee said in a tweet.
Her comments followed Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar's statements during the monsoon session of Lok Sabha that the government does not have data on the number of migrants who died or were injured while returning to their native places during the lockdown.
The union government had said that many states and union territories had not provided details of farmer suicides.
Hence the national data on the causes for suicides in the farming sector is "untenable".
Chowdhury, who is also West Bengal Congress president, said suppression of facts by the government is a direct affront to a vibrant democracy.
Both the state and central governments have been negating the RTI Act to hide the truth, he said.
"The International Day for Universal access to information is being celebrated today. I think that the epoch-making legislation of RIGHT TO INFORMATION act conceived and passed during UPA regime in India could be recognized as a befitting tribute to the essence of this day," he said in a series of tweet.
"Suppression of facts by the govt of any denomination is a direct affront to a vibrant democracy.
Union govt has been negating the RTI act to hide the truth.
Even state govt of West Bengal is also fervently emulating the path of Union govt by denying the right to the common men," he said.
The Congress leader urged Banerjee to lead by example instead of pointing fingers at others and demanded that the state government issue a white paper on the pandemic.
"Charity should begin at home. At least my demand to the state govt to issue a white paper on the COVID pandemic situation that could be a precursor of transparency, please do the same in regard to this historic day," he said.
Criticising the Trinamool Congress government, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said it had mastered the art of "hiding facts and figures".
"The TMC government should stop lecturing the Centre. Its double standards have been exposed. The state government during the COVID pandemic has mastered the art of hiding facts and figures. They were caught red-handed by the visiting inter-ministerial central team," he said.
A nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A large number of migrant workers returned to their far flung native places from different parts of the country, many of them even on foot, during the unprecedented lockdown which was imposed to break the chain of coronavirus infection.