Mamata Government backtracks on Central assessment team issue, assures full cooperation a day after allegedly obstructing them

A day after high voltage political drama, West Bengal government has denied the Centre’s allegations that there was no cooperation with the Central team deputed to assess the Covid-19 situation in the state and gave an assurance that it will abide by all Union government orders on lockdown.

In a letter to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said it was not a fact that the two Inter Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) have not been provided with any cooperation by the state government since he had two meetings with one team and also was in touch with the other.

“This is to convey my highest assurances for the implementation of the orders of central government issued under the Disaster Management Act as well as the directions of the Honb’le Supreme Court,” the state chief secretary told the union home secretary.

“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 Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shot off a furious 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.

Yesterday, Apurva Chandra had said the central team in Kolkata was forced to wait for hours and told – despite a meeting with the Chief Secretary the previous day — that there were “some issues”, so the team would not be going out.

After the central teams informed Delhi about their predicament, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to the chief secretary that states must comply with the centre’s order and warned of action. Mr Bhalla said the central teams had been “specifically restrained from making any visits, interacting with health professionals and assessing the ground level situation”. This, he said, was obstructing the implementation of orders issued by the central government under the Disaster Management Act and equally binding directions of the Supreme Court.