‘Centre should not play politics’: Mamata Banerjee at video-conference with PM Modi
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that the Centre should not play politics at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the country.
“We as a state doing our best to combat the virus. The Centre should not play politics in this crucial time. We are surrounded by international borders and other bigger states and have challenges to deal with,” Banerjee said at the video-conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“All the states should be given equal importance and we should work together as Team India,” she said, adding that the federal structure should be respected.
The Centre had recently rapped the West Bengal government over its Covid-19 management which, it said, was characterised by a very low rate of testing in proportion to the population, and the highest mortality rate in the country – of 13.2 per cent.
The state government, however, said less number of active cases was detected in the initial days due to lack of infrastructure, and this resulted in an apparently high rate of deaths in the state.
The Centre had also come down heavily on the Mamata Banerjee government for not allowing movement of goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh that could jeopardise India’s international commitments to the neighbouring country.
In a scathing letter to West Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said that by doing so, West Bengal was not just violating the ministry of home affairs’ orders under Disaster Management Act including the guidelines but also Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India. Article 253 of the Constitution deals with the legislation for giving effect to international agreements while articles 256 and 257 give powers to the Centre for issuing directions to the state that are obligatory for latter.
He reminded the state government of lockdown measures issued on May 1 according to which no state/union territory shall stop movement of cargo for cross-border land trade under treaties with neighbouring countries.
After this, the West Bengal government suggested that trade between India and Bangladesh can continue through Gede in south Bengal’s Nadia district during the coronavirus lockdown.