Mamata slams Modi over ‘casual superflop’ COVID meeting in which ‘Chief Ministers were made to remain silent’

Published : May 20, 2021 21:08 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressing a media conference on May 20. Photo: PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described the virtual COVID-19 meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 20 as a “casual superflop meeting” in which the Chief Ministers of the States were insulted by being made to remain silent. “What upset us most was that in a federal setup, in spite of officially inviting the Chief Ministers, they were not allowed to utter a single word; their presence was just a formality…. It was just a casual superflop meeting, and we the Chief Ministers are feeling insulted and humiliated,” said Mamata at a press conference after the meeting. She likened the Chief Ministers’ presence in the meeting to “puppets”.

Mamata alleged that though the CMs attending the meeting had come prepared with their demands and suggestions, there was no scope to air them, and neither did the Centre ask about the COVID vaccine or the availability of medicines and oxygen or the Black Fungus disease that is spreading in different part of the country. “I thought I would be able ask the Prime Minister to give us the vaccine so we can vaccinate everybody in the State, but he is saying in his speech that corona is on the decline. If corona is indeed on the decline, then why are there so many deaths taking place?” said Mamata. She alleged that it was “negligence” on the part of the Centre that led to the uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Mamata also insinuated that the Chief Ministers were made to remain silent due to the “insecurity” of the Prime Minister. “I felt bad to see that the Prime Minister is feeling so insecure that he did not even want to listen to what a Chief Minister had to say. Why so much fear? Why so much neglect?” said Mamata. She lashed out at the Centre saying while young people were dying, the Centre was busy constructing buildings and statues. “People are today scared to dip their feet in the Ganges river. The whole country has been polluted, and the environment has been made poisonous, and he is saying corona is on the decline. Next he will say ring a bell and the corona problem will reduce. There is no permanent solution, no action,” said Mamata, adding that the country is going through a very “critical time” and the Prime Minister is “very casual”. “Today’s meeting is proof [of that]…. He wanted to get some publicity through the media and that is why he expressed his own opinion and did not allow the other Chief Ministers to speak…. They have demolished the federal structure,” said Mamata.

Mamata has also demanded clarity on the time between the doses of vaccine. “I wanted some clarifications today. Sometimes they are saying the second dose is to be taken after three weeks, sometimes after six weeks, sometimes after 40 days, sometimes after one year. What is the actual time between doses? Is there any study or research? Nobody knows. Just because there are no guidelines they are changing the time. People are confused,” she said. She highlighted the need to talk on the spread of Black Fungus and the non-availability of the medicines needed to treat it. “This is so difficult. We are running different States, but the one who has assumed the position of the Samrat of Delhi is not even looking at the plight of the people. He is only saying everything is okay,” said the Chief Minister.

The same day Mamata wrote to the Prime Minister requesting him to make available vaccines for all government employees. “In Bengal, while we have taken steps to complete vaccination of a large section of frontline and electorally engaged employees across several sectors, we still need minimally 20 lakh doses to cover all the employees,” wrote Mamata. She also urged the Prime Minister to facilitate the vaccination of Central government employees like those in Railways, Airports, Defence, Banks and others who are working to keep essential activities uninterrupted. “They have been forced to face people, mingle with public for discharge of their duties…. Unfortunately, the Central government policies keep no room to accommodate their needs,” wrote Mamata.

In her press conference, Mamata claimed that though the vaccination was slow due to the Centre not sending enough vaccines to the State, the current test positivity rate in Bengal has come down to 28.7 per cent as against the earlier high of 32.8 per cent. The number of new cases on May 20, stood at 19,091, and total active cases at 1,31,529. The mortality rate continued to remain high, with 162 people dying on May 20, taking the total death figure to 14,057.