Bengal raises alarm on financial crisis
Kolkata: While stating the state's poor financial health due to the ongoing lockdown, Bengal government on Sunday raised the issue of financial assistance by the Centre to fight against COVID-19.
At the same time, different state governments including Bengal urged the Centre about the need of preparing a proper plan of action and an error-free schedule by the Railways to run the special trains in which stranded people are returning to their respective states.
The issue was raised during Sunday's video conference of Union Cabinet Secretary Rajib Gauba with all states. Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay and Health Secretary Vivek Kumar attended the meeting on behalf of the Bengal Government.
This comes a day ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's video conference with all Chief Ministers that is scheduled to be held on Monday.
Sources said that Bandyopadhyay has given detailed information about the current situation in Bengal in terms of COVID-19 and all measures taken to check the spread of the disease. He also cleared the state government's stand of taking all necessary measures to bring back stranded people including migrant labourers from other states.
At the same time, he has also pointed out the need for financial support to fight against COVID-19 when the state's coffer was badly hit with a considerable drop in revenue generation with all businesses remaining closed due to the lockdown.
The state government is leaving no stone unturned to fight against COVID-19 despite incurring a loss of around Rs 5,000 crore per month and without any such support from the Centre. The plea to announce special financial packages by the Centre fell on deaf ears when the state is yet to receive the due amount of Rs 50,000 crore as the Bengal is being denied of Rs 11,212 crores of devolution funds from the Centre during the financial year 2019-20 from the Union Budget Estimate presented for 2019-20, Rs 36,000 crores for various Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) and Rs 2,406 crore as GST compensation.
The issue related to preparing a proper plan of action to run special trains to bring back migrant labourers were raised by the state government as misleading information was shared by the Ministry of Railways stating that Bengal government had not given its nod to allow running of trains from some states. At the same time, it has been stressed that proper scheduling of trains is necessary as states need to make arrangements for last-mile connectivity and health check-up of the incoming migrant labourers.
Another key point that has come up in the video conference is the security of doctors and health workers. The state government has stated about the steps taken up to avoid their harassment of any sort and also pointed out about supply of sufficient protective gear for them. A helpline number has also been set up in which doctors and health workers may contact in case of any need.
Bandyopadhyay has mentioned about the state's preparedness as per the Standard Operating Procedures that include arrangement for institutional quarantine for the people of Bengal, who will be returning from abroad through Kolkata Airport.