A combative Mamata Banerjee on Monday asked the centre not to “bulldoze the federal structure”, stop pointing fingers at states and instead trust the states to do their job. While the attack on the centre was couched in polite phrases, her outrage at the Home Minister was less so.
Speaking at the video conference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers on the lockdown, Ms Banerjee prefaced her attack with, “I respect Mr Amit Shah.” But it was the velvet glove for her broadside against the Home Minister, who was present at the meeting.
“Why did Mr Amit Shah need to write a letter and send that to the press?” Ms Banerjee said, referring to a controversial letter the Home Minister had written to her on Friday, which found its way to the media on Saturday.
“After it was out in the news, people were asking me. What am I supposed to do? Why don’t you speak to us directly? I request you this must not happen to other states,” she said.
Ms Banerjee also took on a central team’s visit to Bengal to oversee coronavirus situation. “Should we call them as babus and behave as bonded labour?” the Chief Minister demanded to know, adding the central teams could come but should not expect the state’s Chief Secretary and the Health Secretary to be at their beck and call.
Two central teams flew to Bengal on 20 April at 10 am, three hours before Amit Shah called Mamata Banerjee about their visit.
On the authorities reportedly charging migrants for railway tickets, Ms Banerjee said, “I request Mr Amit Shah to ensure that no money is taken from the migrant workers… If it is needed, please ask us, we will pay.”
Addressing the border trade issue between India and Bangladesh, Ms Banerjee said the state would cooperate and send goods trains, but it is not clear if trucks may cross the border.
“The locals do not want to go because of the high number of cases in Bangladesh,” she said. There was friction across the border after the centre cleared it, but locals objected.
Ms Banerjee, however, had not replied to a letter sent by the Union Home Secretary to the Bengal Chief Secretary, questioning alleged poor enforcement of the lockdown in the state, suggesting that specific groups in specific locations were violating the lockdown with impunity.