Centre-Mamata Conflict Reaches a New High with the Visit of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team in Bengal

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 Copy of an order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and IMCT constituted to report on two clusters comprising few districts of West Bengal

-Suman Bhattacharyya  

As the ten-member Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) to probe into the COVID 19 situation in Bengal reached Kolkata on Monday, Mamata Banerjee found in it another occasion to heighten her resistance to the Centre. The Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal, Shri Rajib Sinha, met the Kolkata (south Bengal) team of IMCT at the state headquarters in Nabanna and cleared the displeasure and disapproval of the state government over its activities. This exposed the Centre-state bitterness once more in these challenging times of COVID 19 throughout the country and the world.
In a tweet on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Delhi had cleared its stand that it would send high-level teams to assess the COVID 19 situation at places where it was reported to have assumed dangerous proportions and the teams would, based on their survey at these places, submit their reports to the Central government. The Central Government would reach these teams to the concerned states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. Still, the state governments would be required to provide them with the necessary logistical support.

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Based on a 3-page order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, two IMCTs were constituted to report on two clusters comprising the districts of Kolkata-Howrah-North 24 Parganas-East Medinipur and Darjeeling-Jalpaiguri-Kalimpong respectively. It was clearly stated that the IMCTs were formed "in the exercise of the powers under sections 35(1), 35(2)(e) and 35 (2)(i) of the Disaster Management Act 2005.
In a tweet around 3 pm, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, stated that her administration was open to constructive suggestions from the Centre, but the unexpected visit of the IMCTs 'might not be consistent with the federal structure' of the country.
We have to remember that there has been a consistent complaint against the state government underplaying the number of COVID 19 victims and deaths in the state. The state BJP leadership has welcomed the decision of the Central Government while CPIM chose to stand with Mamata in this matter. Rajib Sinha, Chief Secretary of the state, alleged that the IMCTs reached Kolkata within 15 minutes of a phone call the state administration received from Delhi in this regard. The IMCTs started their tour of the allotted districts with the support from BSF and SSB. This, the state administration again considered being in complete violation of the federal structure.

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The sharp reaction of the West Bengal state administration to the visit of the IMCTs and the stalling of their surveys may be regarded to have contributed in the further embitterment of Centre-state relationship in the context of West Bengal.