Central team indicts Bengal govt over COVID-19, says 12.8 pc mortality highest (Photo Credit: File Photo)
The COVID-19 mortality rate in West Bengal is the highest in the country at 12.8 per cent and reflects "low testing and weak surveillance" while tackling the pandemic, the Centre's inter-ministerial team that visited the state to assess the situation said on Monday. Before wrapping up its two-week trip, the IMCT also accused the state's TMC government of being "antagonistic" to the panel.
Extremely high mortality rate of 12.8 per cent is a clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking. This is the highest in the country," the team led by Apurva Chandra, an additional secretary rank officer in the Defence Ministry, said in a stinging indictment of the state government.
In his parting shot, the IAS officer said though the state government claimed "very high level" of daily surveillance of individuals in containment zones, no database was shown or results were made available to the team. "Collating and evaluating a database of this magnitude requires a very robust system to be in place.
However, no such evidence was available," he wrote in a letter to the state's chief secretary Rajiva Sinha. The state, he said, needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting figures and not downplay the spread of the virus. The ruling TMC reacted angrily, alleging that the two central teams dispatched to take stock of the situation had worked with a malafide intention of maligning Bengal in order to please their BJP bosses.
Since the day the teams arrived, they have been working with a malafide intention to malign the state and its efforts to tackle the pandemic. The BJP has sent these teams with a motive to malign the people of the state, TMC Rajya Sabha MP and senior leader Santanu Sen said.
The two teams which arrived in Bengal on April 20, allegedly without prior intimation to the state government, were stationed in Kolkata and in Siliguri in North Bengal. They had flagged alleged instances of non-cooperation by the state government in providing logistical support and relevant information during field visits. A discrepancy has been brought out in the number of COVID cases reported by the state in its medical bulletins and its communications with the Government of India, Chandra wrote in the letter.
The bulletin of April 30 showed active COVID cases as 572, discharged after treatment - 139 and expired due to Covid-19 - 33, making a total of 744. In a communication to union health secretary on the same day, total number of cases was indicated to be 931 leading to a discrepancy of 187 cases, the letter said.
Chandra said despite his insistence on meeting officials of the Home, Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, and Food and Civil Supplies that did not materialise. ....the IMCT could interact only with the principal secretary health through a video conference... There has been no response or interaction with any other department of the state government. In short, the state government has taken an antagonistic view to the IMCT and has not supported the IMCT in the performance of its duties," he wrote.
He said it was in "absolute contrast" to the experience of central teams on similar assignment to other states. The team, however, appreciated the state government for raising the number of tests from 400 a day till April 20 to 2,410 on May 2. Chandra said he will submit his report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and hoped the state government will take the suggestions in the right spirit.