As the blame game and turmoil at the bureaucratic level continued between the Centre and West Bengal government, a central team on a visit to Kolkata and Siliguri to assess the COVID-19 situation on Saturday flagged non-cooperation on the part of the state over providing logistical support and other relevant information.
In a letter to Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, the inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) led by senior bureaucrat Apurba Chandra, also sought to know details about steps taken by the Mamata Banerjee-led dispensation to identify and quarantine those who returned from the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin area.
Meanwhile, the central team visiting north Bengal wrote to the government suggesting stricter implementation of lockdown there.
The ruling Trinamool Congress described the IMCT as "India's Most Callous Team", which, it said, has sought to spread the political virus "shamelessly".
Chandra said the team it is yet to receive a response from the state government to the letters it has written to Sinha since its arrival in the city on Monday.
"Four letters have been written to the state government till today. No response has been received till date... The chief secretary of West Bengal has been widely reported in the media to have stated that the IMCT is free to visit anywhere, and the state government cannot waste its time by accompanying them.
"The above stand is a violation of the order by the Union Home Ministry and the state government is expected to provide logistics support and facilitate all field visits," Chandra said in one of the two letters to Sinha on Saturday.
He further wanted to know if the state government would take the responsibility of the safety and security of ICMT if it ventures out on its own in the absence of police escort. "Will the BSF which is accompanying the IMCT is permitted to take any action to ensure the safety and security of the IMCT in the absence of police support?” the letter read.
Besides, Chandra wrote about the team's desire to interact with food and civil supply officials regarding supply of essential commodities to residents in containment zones.
However, the central team praised the government's efforts in maintaining strict enforcement of lockdown in the Salkia (Howrah) containment zone.
The team members sought full records of the surveillance carried out in the containment zone like number of households and individuals, and contact tracing of COVID-19 patients in the areas.
In north Bengal, the central team, led by senior bureaucrat Vineet Joshi, said more field officers are required to monitor and provide feedback about the effectiveness of various measures undertaken by the government.
"As an immediate measure, it is suggested that stricter implementation of lockdown is absolutely necessary to avoid any further outbreak. A larger number of field officers are required to monitor and provide feedback about the effectiveness of various measures undertaken by the government," Joshi said in his letter to the chief secretary.
He also sought a meeting with the police commissioner of Siliguri and details regarding the state's preparedness against COVID-19 in north Bengal. The country is under a lockdown till May 3 to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.
(With inputs from PTI)