The secret disposal of dead bodies of coronavirus patients by the authorities in West Bengal on the orders of Mamata Banerjee-led state government has invited massive criticism against Trinamool Congress and has also triggered tremendous protests across social media, reports Sunday Guardian.
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.
In the last week, over 100 videos showing slugfests between cops and local residents over such silent cremation using kerosene and other fuels have surfaced on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook. The videos have also circulated among large WhatsApp groups across India and abroad.
“Disposing of bodies under the cover of darkness is one issue. The other is doing thermal scanning of people and labelling it as sample tests. This is happening in a number of neighbourhoods in Kolkata and its adjoining areas,” a top source in Kolkata was quoted saying by Sunday Guardian.
However, the Trinamool Congress-led state government denies the charge, saying the death toll is very low as compared to other states. But protests are mounting over such disposals across Bengal.
Donations to clubs amidst food riots in the state
Last week, the citizens of West Bengal were aghast to see the state government distributing Rs 1,00,000 each to a large number of clubs as donations. According to the critics, the donation was offered to buy support from locals so that the ruling party could get a grip on the neighbourhoods, especially the ones affected by the deadly virus.
Shockingly, what worse is that food riots have begun in from various parts of the state. Various videos had reportedly emerged showing that the central aid being converted into Trinamool Congress (TMC) ration and illegally distributed from the homes of TMC leaders across Bengal.
Cover-up by Mamata Banerjee government
Many in Kolkata believe that the Mamata Banerjee-led government has been doing serious attempts to cover up coronavirus deaths so that the state earns brownie points in its fight against the epidemic ever since the first case was reported on March 17, 2020, when an 18-year-old student, who had returned from London, tested positive for the virus.
According to reports, there are huge discrepancies in data regarding the date between what the Bengal government is claiming on record against ground realities across the state.
Union Minister Babul Supriyo said the situation in the state was “very dangerous” and has stated on Twitter that he had found what he claimed was incriminating evidence against the state government.
Further, a note issued by the authorities of Murshidabad Medical College asking all practising doctors of the hospital not to mention coronavirus as the cause of death in death certificates. The note had triggered a furore in West Bengal, causing the state government tremendous embarrassment. The note says that cause of death should be mentioned as usual, and if the cause of the death is COVID-19, it should not be mentioned in the death certificate.
West Bengal Government banning mobile phones inside hospital
In another related case, the state government banned the use of mobile phones inside hospitals, saying they are a risk as they could carry the coronavirus around. However, it was known to many that it was a move by the Mamata Banerjee government to restrict the outflow of information by the whistleblowers.
Apparently, the move was spurred by a video that went viral, of two bodies lying in a ward full of coronavirus patients. The video was apparently taken by a coronavirus patient inside an isolation ward at one of Kolkata’s nodal hospitals, MR Bangur. Somnath Das, a 24-year-old, who shot the video and said that bodies were lying in the ward for more than three hours, has been booked by Kolkata Police.
“I am threatened every day. I am very worried,” Das said to the reporters in a recorded statement.
Despite Bengal government’s repeated claims that the situation is under control, the doctors and paramedics have taken to social media, used different names, and posted what appears to be scary details of the state of the hospitals and total failure of state machinery in keeping people inside their homes to avoid spreading the virus.
In some of the neighbourhoods outside Kolkata, members of a Muslim community have clashed with cops who protested open movements on streets and highways.
The scenes of the poor villagers of Bashirhat, a bordering town appealing to their MP from Trinamool Congress (TMC) Nusrat Jahan to guarantee the supply of ration because the area was under total lockdown was heart-wrenching. Jahan, who drew flak for posting her Tik-Tok dance video and cooking videos on Twitter, did not respond to the villagers. She merely told her followers on Twitter to remain positive.
Meanwhile, Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has asked his bureaucrats to seal the state’s border to prevent the entry of people from West Bengal because returnees from that state continued to fuel the coronavirus cases in Odisha. The Odisha police have erected barricades and barriers on 57 roads connecting West Bengal and deployed an armed force to keep a vigil along the border routes round the clock to ensure that there is no movement of vehicles through the routes.
Mamata Banerjee-led government hiding death of coronavirus patients
A serious look at the state’s health records and coronavirus related deaths will show glaring omissions. The state’s first coronavirus-related death was a 57-year-old resident of Dum Dum and an employee of Eastern Railway. The most shocking aspect of the case was when his family rejected the claims made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that the deceased had travelled abroad.
The worst part is that the Health Department said nothing about his travel history. In fact, from that day onwards, the Health Department has stopped carried details about the travel histories of the infected and dead in its bulletins on coronavirus. And as cases grew, the bulletins were constantly altered to omit certain details, which in turn, has caused panic among citizens about the government’s ability to handle the crisis.
More and more reports of coronavirus positive patients dying are being reported across social media, but the official death count has been low. The low death count in Bengal is the result of the audit committee is busy examining each and every case and the figures were updated only with its approval.
Interestingly, the coronavirus testing numbers have seen a sudden quantum jump over the last week, ever since the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) visited the state on April 20, 2020.
Despite this, West Bengal continues to be one of the worst testing records. From a dismal 51 tests per million population before the team arrived, the state is now testing 135 people per million population as of April 28, 2020. West Bengal, which should have reached at last 350 to 400 tests per million by now. However, the current test numbers are not even halfway there yet. The state now ranks in the bottom three, slightly above Mizoram and Manipur, claims an independent data analysis.
What is distressing is that the coronavirus toll for West Bengal went up by three times on Friday, hours after the Central government wrote to Rajiva Sinha, the state Chief Secretary, asking for “case records” of all coronavirus-linked fatalities that had been attributed to other causes by the expert panel constituted by the Mamata Banerjee government.
The panel was formed earlier this month to “audit” coronavirus deaths reported by hospitals in the state. The state government had claimed on Friday that 57 coronavirus patients had died in West Bengal, but sought to clarify that 39 of these had succumbed to “co-morbid conditions”. The government claimed that coronavirus infection was “incidental” to their death.
Till Thursday, figures released by the state government had pegged the number of deaths at 15. However, the global trends suggest that coronavirus, which has an overall low fatality rate, is lethal for those with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, and the elderly. This fact raises questions about the state government’s approach to analysing coronavirus fatalities.