Lending a strong voice of support to Mamata Banerjee who charged the Centre with discrimination, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said that leaking of central action and communications to the media ahead of informing states tantamounts to undermining their power.
Within days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video conference with the chief ministers, Baghel said that even the Tamil Nadu chief minister has raised the concern of not coordinating and informing states ahead of sending migrant trains, putting everybody in grave danger of the novel coronavirus.
“If the statements are made (by central leaders) and the information is leaked to newspapers including about the visit of the central team, then the states are justified in getting angry,” he told PTI in an interview.
Making a strong case for a more coordinated approach in the battle against the coronavirus, Baghel said the states “need to be and must be” taken into confidence. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has recently accused the Centre of “playing politics” and dubbed as “poorly planned” exercise of national lockdown.
She had attacked Union Home Minister Amit Shah for allegedly releasing to the media a letter he had written to the state about not allowing trains to ferry migrant labourers to West Bengal. “…why did Mr. Amit Shah need to write a letter and send that to the press? 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 this must not happen to other states,” a TMC press release had quoted her as having said in the meeting with the prime minister.
In a video conference with Modi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami has opposed the resumption of passenger train services and air services in the state till May 31.
“We know from media that regular train service to Chennai (from Delhi) and from Chennai will commence from May 12. As the positive cases in Chennai are showing an increasing trend, don’t permit train service up to 31.5.2020, in my state,” Palaniswami had told Modi.
Baghel said the states need to be taken into confidence before any measure is initiated while pointing out had the Centre consulted states on time, many of the hardships could have been averted. Citing the plight of labourers who are forced to travel by foot on roads and on railway tracks, the chief minister of the Congress-ruled state said it is heart-wrenching to see starvation or accidental deaths.
“If the central government had done all arrangements (related to the movement of workers) before they allowed the movement of migrants, then we would have not seen such frightening scenes of large numbers of people walking on the roads barefoot and with all their family members,” he said.
Baghel said that had the Centre decided on the resumption of trains for ferrying workers and on their movement, before March 24, pains of labourers could have been minimized.
“They should have arranged for their movement earlier. They should have taken the states into confidence. There was no arrangement for buses and trains for the workers. People are worried. They want to go back to their home. Some are going on foot and even walking on railway tracks. It is resulting in the death of some as well, which is heart-wrenching,” he said.
On the question of returning migrant workers to his state, Baghel said some of them might have the potential of carrying the deadly virus. “We have done all preparations to deal with it. It is true that thousands of workers and stranded people of Chhattisgarh are coming back to the state. They will come from the red zone and the orange zone. Who all might they meet on the way and get contamination? It is a matter of concern for us. But we have done all preparations for it,” he said.
Baghel said over 16,000 quarantine centers have been made in villages so that these people can be kept there in case of need for 14 days. “We have to manage their food and shelter as well and also for the employment needs after they have completed 14 days’ quarantine. None of the states like Chhattisgarh is trying to runway from its responsibility of providing basic needs to these returning workers,” he said.
The chief minister, however, said if the states do not know about the trains carrying workers started by the Centre, then there are chances of cases of the infection going up. “If we do not know where would people go after coming from trains? If we do not know whether they are clean or carrying the infection? Then there is a possibility of infection cases going up,” he said.
Baghel said the states should have the right to decide on what all activities can be started for reviving the economy and also on the resumption of inter-state road, rail and air services for the passengers. — PTI