Centre Says High Mortality Rate, People Playing Football Shows Bengal Implemented Lockdown Poorly

Kolkata: The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday expressed dismay over the grave lockdown violations in West Bengal and observed that people playing cricket and football shows poor supervision by the district authorities in Kolkata and Howrah.

The Ministry's comments were based on feedback presented to them by the Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCT), which were deputed to Kolkata and Jalpaiguri districts since April 20 and returned on Monday.

While pointing out that testing carried out in the state in proportion to the state’s population, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that mortality rate at 13.2 per cent in Bengal was the highest in the country for any state.

In a two-page letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, Bhalla said stricter enforcement of lockdown was necessary and the problems have arisen due to ostracism of healthcare professionals and lack of quarantine facilities in the state.

“Instances of overcrowding in bazaars with poor sanitation, free movement of people in large numbers without masks, bathing of people in rivers, people playing cricket and football, serious laxity in enforcing lockdown measures in containment zones are a grave violation of lockdown and social distancing norms. This shows poor supervision of the district authorities,” Bhalla said in the letter.

“Based on IMCT, the high mortality is a reflection of poor surveillance, detection and testing in the state. There is also a need to increase random testing in crowded clusters.

“The IMCT also noticed violations of lockdown in Kolkata and in Howrah districts and attacks on 'çorona warriors' including policemen demands stricter enforcement. The problems faced by health care professionals and their ostracism are also worrying," it added.

Bhalla also said the state government must look into compensating workers in tea gardens of Darjeeling and Siliguri. “The state government should initiate adequate steps to compensate the workers in tea gardens of Darjeeling and Siliguri, as reportedly lesser wages were paid to them during the first phase of the lockdown.”

On Tuesday (May 5) the Union Home Ministry had expressed dismay over the West Bengal government’s attitude for not taking adequate measures in allowing cross border movement of goods despite the Centre’s notification on the same.

Bhalla also reminded the state government that failing to take action to facilitate the immediate resumption of goods movement will be considered a violation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as well as Article 253, 256, and 257 of the Indian Constitution.

(With PTI inputs)