The Union Home Ministry has taken strong exception to the gradual dilution of lockdown by the West Bengal government, observing in a letter to state's chief secretary and the Director-General of Police (DGP) that local authorities were allowing religious processions to take place even during the ongoing round of restrictions. In its letter, the ministry also expressed concern over shops of non-essential items being allowed to function as usual, despite Centre's nationwide orders stating otherwise.
The Union Home Ministry also said there is no regulation in vegetable, fish and mutton markets and social-distancing norms are being violated at these places in the state.
"As per further reports received from security agencies, gradual dilution of lockdown has been reported from West Bengal, with an increase in the number of exceptions being provided by the state government," the home ministry letter said.
Scores of people had on Friday attended the prayers at a mosque in West Bengal's Murshidabad district, in violation of the 21-day lockdown and social distancing rules in place across the country to check the spread of coronavirus. After the district authorities were apprised of people congregating at a mosque, the police were sent to the place of worship to warn them.
The congregation was reported just a day after the state's chief minister Mamata Banerjee cautioned the public that breaking the lockdown was next to impossible. Banerjee, however, said that she would take a final decision on lifting the lockdown after her meeting with the Prime Minister, scheduled to be held through video conferencing on April 11. Banerjee though also announced the relaxation of curbs in several sectors, including the tea sector.
The CM allowed the tea-plucking to resume, albeit with only 15 per cent of the total workforce operating at any single time. She also allowed taxi services to resume in Kolkata, though saying that cabs would be available on call.
The state authorities had already lifted the restrictions on operations of flower markets and bidi factories.
(with PTI inputs)