Bengal Took "Antagonistic View": Visiting Central Team's Strong Note

The CEntral team, which was expected to visit the hotspot districts in Bengal, repeatedly alleged that they got no logistical support an allegation the state denied.

Bengal Took 'Antagonistic View': Visiting Central Team's Strong Note

Coronavirus: The Central team said the high mortality rate was due to low testing, weak surveillance.

New Delhi:

The Central team that visited Bengal to review the ground situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, has accused the government of taking an "antagonistic view" and failure to cooperate with the team, unlike Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, where similar teams were sent.

In a letter to the state Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha on Monday, the team said despite its repeated requests for field trips and interaction with the public, health professionals and state functionaries, all that it was allowed was a video conference with the health secretary and "some partial responses from the health department".

Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said he was busy all the day and would respond to the IMCT letter in due course in a manner he thought fit.

Amid reports of widespread lockdown violations in the state, the Inter-Ministerial Central Team had landed in the state on April 20, triggering a huge face-off between the central and state governments.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had shot off a furious letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complaining that the teams had arrived much before she was formally informed. She also questioned why her state had been chosen for the central teams' assessment, defending her administration's coronavirus measures.

Her leaders accused the Centre of "fighting some states" when they were busy fighting the virus.

The team, which was expected to visit the hotspot districts, repeatedly alleged that they got no logistical support – an allegation the state denied.

In its final observations on Monday, the team said the high mortality rate from coronavirus in the state was a "clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking".

The team also pointed to the discrepancy in the number of COVID-19 cases the state was reporting to the Centre. The figures reported in the state's medical bulletins and those in its communication with the Centre, were different, the team said, referring to deaths which the state attributed to "co-morbidity".

The state government had formed an audit committee to ascertain if a death was due to coronavirus or a pre-existing ailment – a move that drew much criticism.

"The state needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting figures and not downplay the spread of the virus," the letter read.

There was no evidence of a robust system of collating and creating a database for the surveillance of people in the containment zones the team said, adding they would submit their report on the visit to the Union home ministry.

A BSF driver who was driving the Central team has tested positive, sources said.