BH CORRESPONDENT, Kolkata/New Delhi: The Mamata Banerjee government on Wednesday hit the pause button in the escalating war over the visit of a central team to take stock of the coronavirus situation in the state. Initially reluctant to cooperate with the Centre’s team of experts, a settlement was reached after an angry exchange of letters between the Union home secretary and the state’s chief secretary.
After Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to chief secretary Rajiv Sinha warning him that Bengal needed to cooperate with the Centre, Sinha replied that there had been “no non-cooperation” with the central teams that had arrived to survey Kolkata and Jalpaiguri on Monday.
Sinha said since the teams arrived without prior consultation, there was no opportunity to provide logistic support, nor did the teams seek such support. He also gave his “highest assurance” that the central government order would be implemented.
“It is not a fact that the (central inter-ministerial team) has not been provided with any cooperation by the state government. In fact, the teams had arrived without any prior consultation with us and therefore there was neither such opportunity to provide any logistic support as envisaged in the order dated 19 April 2020. Nor did the teams ask for any help. They went to BSF guest house in Kolkata and the SSB guest house at Siliguri on their own,” Sinha wrote.
“In this connection this is to inform that the Kolkata team led by Apurva Chandra met me in my office on 20 April and had an interaction about the implementation of long-term measures and other steps of the state government to contain and combat COVID-19. I am also in touch with Vineet Joshi at Siliguri and have apprised him about the steps taken by the state government along with sharing of our reports on mail,” the chief secretary said.
The row peaked on Monday when CM Mamata shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining that the teams had arrived much before she was formally informed. She also questioned why her state had been chosen for the central teams’ assessment, defending her administration’s coronavirus measures.