The Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) has slammed the West Bengal government for its handling of the Wuhan Coronavirus crisis in its final observations regarding the state of affair. Team Leader and Special Secretary to the Government of India, Apurva Chandra, in his letter to the Chief Secretary of the state asserted that the government had taken an antagonistic approach towards the team and has not supported it in its pursuit to carry out its duties. He also said that the testing rate was not up to the mark and indicated that the government led by Mamata Banerjee was fudging data, an accusation that has been levelled by numerous other people across the board. The letter also said that adequate systems were not in place to conduct surveillance in containment zones.
The IMCT said in its letter that it could interact and obtain partial responses only from the principal secretary of the Health Department and there had been no interaction or response from any other department in the state. The letter also said that West Bengal has a mortality rate of 12.6% currently, which is “by far the highest in the country”. “This extremely high mortality rate is a clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking,” said the letter.
Significantly, Apurva Chandra noted that a discrepancy in the cases reported by the state government. “The bulletin of 30.04.2020 showed active COVID cases as 572, discharged after treatment 139 and expired due to COVID 33 making a total of 744,” the letter says. On the same day, however, the Union Secretary for Health & Family Welfare was informed by the Principal Secretary for Health in West Bengal that the total number of cases were 931, a discrepancy of 187 cases. Furthermore, an additional 72 Coronavirus positive individuals were stated to have died of comorbidities by the state government, however, this number does not seem to feature in the figure of 744 stated earlier.
The bulletins of the first two days in the month of May do not even mention the total number of cases and deaths in West Bengal. “The State needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting figures and not down play the spread of the virus,” the letter states. The IMCT complimented the efforts undertaken by the Health Department to increase the testing rate from around 400 per day on the 20th of April to 2410 on the 2nd of May. At the same time, it was emphasised that the testing rate needs to be increased with continued momentum. It also expressed hope that its suggestions will be received by the state government in the right spirit.
Tension between Mamata Banerjee and the Central Government
Mamata Banerjee decided to not give her approval to the Indian Airforce to shower petals over two Kolkata hospital on Sunday as part of a military gesture to show gratitude to the country’s corona warriors. The conflict has only risen between the Centre and the West Bengal government after the Mamata Banerjee-led government was angry over the centre for sending special teams to the West Bengal to take stock of the coronavirus ground situation.
The Modi government had sent the team after there were various reports stating that Mamata Banerjee-led state government was fudging coronavirus numbers deliberately to keep the numbers low. Further, medical experts had also claimed that the state government was not at all testing the coronavirus symptomatic patients to limit the numbers of positive cases from the state.
Allegation against the West Bengal Government of fudging data
On Sunday, it was reported that the authorities in West Bengal on the orders of the state government were secretly disposing dead bodies of Coronavirus patients. According to the reports, every night, special teams of cops and paramedics dispose of bodies of coronavirus victims across Bengal. A special incinerator has been created close to a highway that connects Kolkata with the Sundarbans where workers are disposing of a large number of bodies every day.
Earlier, health care experts had said that West Bengal was sitting on a ‘time bomb’. The health-care experts believe that the situation in Bengal is very grave as the Mamata Banerjee-led government has not been giving real data to assess the actual seriousness of the pandemic. From threats to doctors for whistleblowing against the state government against lack of facilities to allegations of state government illegally disposing of dead bodies, there have been serious allegations against the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal.