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The direct confrontation with New Delhi on the lockdown has its origin in the Union Home Ministry’s decision to send two inter-ministerial central teams (IMCT) to the state on April 20 without advance intimation to the state government.

COVID-19 Lockdown: Centre-State Stand-off in Bengal Strains Further Over Cargo Issue | NewsClick

Kolkata: There seems to be a ‘not spoken about’ reason, apart from the ‘highly visible’ causes for West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee’s face-off with New Delhi directly and via state Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. The ‘not spoken about’ reason has an international aspect and paradoxically, both the Centre and the chief minister cannot be faulted for their respective stance; although for Banerjee it amounts to being pressured to be “somewhat accommodative”. Movement of cargo to Bangladesh through Petrapole, a strategic transit point (corresponding place on the other side is Benapole), in the normal course came to a halt from the midnight of March 23-24 as New Delhi, as part of its response to COVID-19, ordered a three-week nationwide lockdown, which was subsequently extended to May 3. In recent days, keeping in view the commencement of the Ramzan fasting schedule on last Friday, the Centre suggested to the chief minister that she, while not relenting on lockdown enforcement, be somewhat accommodative and allow movement of cargo held up at Petrapole. The major items of import from Bangladesh into India are: jute products, betel nuts, fish, cotton rags, readymade garments, knitted fabrics, rice bran, zinc plate, lead and reprocessed plastic agglomerate. Stretching a point, in a 14-page letter written to the CM on April 24, Dhankhar has observed that she had miserably failed in tackling the pandemic and was religiously indulging in explicit appeasement of the minority community. Asked about the handling of the crisis by the Centre and the state-Centre face-off, senior leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Mohammed Salim, told NewsClick that this has exposed the unpreparedness of the Union government and the state. “Right from the beginning, we have been telling the chief minister that ours will be a constructive approach, but when we registered our protest at the failure of the state government to check the spread of the virus and in ensuring relief and ration distribution irrespective of party affiliation, our leaders were arrested,” Salim said, adding, “Whereas the need is to involve grassroot-level agencies up to the panchayat level, Mamata has, always, converted it to a solo show. Commenting on the standoff and the provisions of the Constitution, senior CPI(M) leader Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who was recently elected to Rajya Sabha, said, “This is not the time to play petty political game. We have urged the chief minister to set up all-party committees for demarcated rationing areas for overseeing relief work and execution of the government’s preventive measures.

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