The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent a stern missive to the Bengal government over easing of lockdown restrictions and wanton violation of social distancing norms in the state.
According to this report in the Times Of India, the MHA has written to the state chief secretary and the police chief pointing out that easing of lockdown restrictions and violation of social distancing norms runs foul of the ministry’s orders and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
In what would be a severe embarrassment to the Bengal government, the MHA missive cites specific areas of Kolkata where lockdown restrictions are being violated. These include the minority-dominated parts of the city where people have been thronging the thoroughfares and shops and markets have remained open.
“For instance, shops relating to non-essential items have been allowed to function. There is no regulation in vegetable, fish and mutton markets where people have been thronging in complete violation of social distancing norms in Rajabazar, Narkel Danga, Topsia, Metiabruz, Garden Reach, Ekbalpur and Maniktala in Kolkata. Significantly, areas such as Narkeldanga are witnessing more Covid 19 cases,” said the MHA letter.
This is the second such missive to Bengal in a week; the first was sent on April 4. The MHA has asked the chief secretary and DGP to enforce the lockdown strictly, take action against violations and prevent their recurrence.
The MHA has also taken exception to the state police allowing religious congregations in complete disregard of Union Home Ministry guidelines to bar all religious gatherings without exception.
It also noted that free rations under the public distribution system was being distributed by political leaders instead of the institutional delivery system (the fair price shops). This may have resulted in spread of Covid-19 infection, the missive said.
The MHA has warned that violations of its orders “issued from time to time” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, “are liable to penal action under the Act”. The letter requested the chief secretary and DGP to “take strict action” and “prevent recurrence of such violations in future”. The MHA has also asked the state to report compliance of its directives immediately.
Unlike other states, the Bengal government allowed vegetable, fish and meat markets and shops selling these items to remain open. The state government has also gradually eased other restrictions and the last few days witnessed even public transport on the streets.
There have been reports of a complete lack of lockdown restrictions in large parts of Kolkata and the state. Shops selling even non-essential items have opened gradually.