12/05/2020 10:40 AM IST

No Clarity On West Bengal Lockdown Extension, Mamata Banerjee Questions Amit Shah In CM’s Meet

Reports suggest that Mamata Banerjee was one of the chief ministers who favoured an extension of the lockdown in Bengal.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in a file photo. 

Five more people died of Covid-19 in West Bengal, the state government said on Monday and reported 124 new patients who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

While the state has put the death toll at 118, without counting the 72 deaths from co-morbidities, the Union health ministry website said that the death toll in Bengal was 190. 

This puts Bengal right behind Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat in terms of the number of people who have died from Covid-19. 

The state government bulletin also said there were 1,374 active cases and the total number of cases reported in the state was 1,939. 

Reports also suggest that four people died in the state after testing negative for the virus. 

Amid the ongoing battle with the Centre, which has alleged that West Bengal has failed miserably in containing the virus, chief minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out during a chief ministers’ meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. 

While she demanded that states be consulted if the lockdown is extended beyond May 17, she also said that Bengal was being targeted for no reason. The chief minister also hit out at Union home minister Amit Shah during the meeting. 

Mamata hits out at Modi, questions Shah 

Banerjee during the meeting with Modi alleged that some of his cabinet colleagues were playing politics with Bengal and the state was being discriminated against. 

The Telegraph reported Banerjee as telling Modi that Bengal was being targeted for political mileage. 

“I respect Mr Amit Shah. Last time also he spoke about Bengal and I could not counter him because I was not given a chance. But why did Mr Amit Shah need to write a letter and send that to the press? After it was out in the news, people were asking me…. Why don’t you speak to us directly? I request this must not happen to other states,” she was quoted in the report as saying during the press conference. 

Banerjee also said that while Bengal was being scrutinised constantly, there were no questions asked when there were wrongdoings in BJP-ruled states. 

The Telegraph reported quoted her as saying, “When something happens in Gujarat or an ordinance is declared to snatch away the rights of the labourers in Uttar Pradesh, why don’t you question them? Why are you targeting Bengal and its people by sending notices?”

She also asked the Union government for clear guidelines on how to deal with the pandemic. 

PTI reported that she highlighted the “contradictions” in the Centre’s approach to tackling the outbreak.

“On one hand the Centre wants the lockdown to be enforced strictly, and on the other it is resuming train services and reopening land borders,” PTI sources quoted her as having told the meeting while presenting her views on whether the lockdown should be extended beyond May 17.

She suggested that states be allowed to decide on which sectors to open and which to keep shut keeping in mind the situation on the ground.

“We want to fight the pandemic alongside the central government. But Bengal has been unnecessarily targeted politically. Instead of shifting the onus on the states, the Centre should come out with a clear strategy on the way forward,” Banerjee reportedly said in the meeting. 

The Indian Express reported that Bengal was one of the states that was in favour of extending the lockdown. However, it was not clear whether the lockdown will be extended in the state. 

338 containment zones in Kolkata 

In a Twitter thread shared on Monday, the Kolkata police listed out all the containment zones in the city.

The city is one of the four red zones in the state that also include Howrah, North 24 Parganas and Purba Medinipur. 

PTI reported that according to the list of district-wise containment zones put by the Egiye Bangla website of the West Bengal government, Howrah has 76 such areas, while North Parganas has 92.

In Hooghly, there are 23 containment zones while in Purba Medinipur there are three such zones.

4 die after testing negative 

Four patients in north Bengal, all of whom tested negative for the coronavirus, have died since Sunday night, reports said. 

The Telegraph reported that while two of them were from Siliguri, one of them was from a tea estate in Jalpaiguri, and the fourth person was from North Dinajpur.

The report quoted Praloy Acharya, the chief medical officer of health of Darjeeling as saying, “Swab samples of all the four patients were collected and tested at the lab in the NBMCH (North Bengal Medical College and Hospital). All of them have been tested negative. Their bodies will be handed over to the families as soon as possible.”

Tea gardens allowed 50% workforce 

One of the many industries affected by the lockdown in Bengal is the tea industry that requires regular work. The Mamata Banerjee government said in a circular that now the tea plantations could employ 50% workforce. 

The government had initially allowed only 15% of the workforce to be employed. 

PTI reported that the government order said the tea garden authorities will have to maintain social distancing norms and proper hygiene practices.

The Telegraph quoted Bijoygopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations as saying, ”“It is good that the state government has finally come with the much desired directive. We welcome it as it would immensely help the industry that suffered losses at the beginning of the season, that is, during the first flush.”