Central Committee and Commercial Tourism post-Corona:
Where do we go from here?

Bhaskar Majumder

There is nothing wrong and nothing surprising if the friend comes as a Guest uninformed – the coming of Krishna to the kitchen of Draupadi is enough to understand this. All of you know Krishna who decided the fate of people in the great Epic Mahabharata – fait accompli. For those who are less aware, Krishna had occasional non-satiety and used to come to take food from Draupadi’s kitchen – that also once filled-in the stomach of Saint Durvasa and his many disciples. The non-satiety of the Ministry of Home Affairs may be juxtaposed – it sent a team to West Bengal that always suffers from suffocation. This suffocation is linked to both Corona and non-Corona. So there is nothing wrong – here it was not for food non-satiety but for vigilance, it seems. After all, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!

The arrival of the team was reported to have occurred abrupt – how come? The inter-state borders had been sealed for the lockdown – the team was not a concept in abstraction – it had some visible members. Hopefully they did not come on foot unlike the attempts of the expendable migrant workers. This means, they were provided logistics. They were provided place to stay comfortably – it was not on the public road. This means there was some communication between the people of West Bengal and the people of India, the latter represented by Delhi.

What surprised me was the surprise of the Government of West Bengal – that it was unaware uninformed ahead of the arrival of the team. This is Corona season – nothing remains hidden except the virus that kills and killing. As reported, the number of population affected so far in India by states and the number of persons died because of the virus is much less in West Bengal relative to the states like Maharashtra, Gujarata, Madhya Pradesh and the city-state Delhi among all the major states in India. The reports from print and electronic media revealed that the esteemed team was also going to the cities, Pune and Jaipur. The central government had constituted six Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) to make a field assessment of the impact of Corona virus in these places and issue necessary directions to the four states -- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal -- for redress. So, it was their responsible tourism to cities and the state of West Bengal.

I strongly believe the people of West Bengal are no less hospitable in spite of its long-term agony since 1943 Famine (undivided Bengal) than any city or city-state. Hence, the team will be taken care of by indicators that the honourable team members like. But then again reminding Krishna-Krishnaa-Kahaani, Krishna fulfilled his non-satiety with one residue piece of cooked rice that Krishnaa could offer. In juxtaposition, Didi (Mamata, if I may) is seriously feeding all for common people now are without food-job (“roti-roji’’) and walking on public road that is unparallel to do self and help, including the sanitation workers and sweepers. Thus, she may have less food to offer to the team – food means hospitality. I believe the central team members will be happy with one piece of cooked rice offered.
The honourable CM of West Bengal, however, failed to understand the rationale of forming and sending such committees that may be her prerogative not to understand. She also failed to understand the criteria to assess West Bengal. We as common men understand the ‘’excess capacity’’ of the more privileged for the latter only understand by assessment where is the deficit in cure of Corona patients. I believe that there are some experts in medical sciences in the team apart from Secretaries more capacitated in communications in British mode.

It is alleged that the Centre on 21st April, 2020 directed the West Bengal government not to obstruct the work of two inter-ministerial central teams of a total of six inter-ministerial teams formed by the Government of India visiting the state for an on-the-spot assessment of implementation of lockdown measures to fight Corona virus under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 of the Government of India, and equally binding directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court. The teams comprise public health specialists and officers of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), whose expertise can be leveraged by the state government for management of Corona 2019/2020.

Nobody perhaps questioned the authority of the teams that were deputed under the authority conferred on the Central Government under Section 35 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The Ministry of Home Affairs reportedly alleged that the West Bengal government was not cooperating with the central teams visiting the state to assess the ground reality and were restraining them from interacting with health workers and touring the affected areas.

The Ministry allegedly opined that in some of the districts, a number of violations to the lockdown measures had been reported, posing a serious health hazard and risk for spread of the virus that might adversely affect the people at large. Some of the violations included attacks on healthcare persons, poor functioning of Fair Price Shops under PDS, people violating the norms of social distancing, plying of commercial vehicles with passengers in urban areas and so on. All these were very serious issues that definitely deserve attention of the competent committees.

One or two questions come to my mind, for brain is locked post home-locked syndrome. One, why Wet Bengal is nursed or pampered so much? Corona is universal and not Bengal-specific. Two, why more affected states are being ignored like Gujarat? Three, why BUP (Bihar-UP) left out for in my understanding as a resident of the Heartland since more than past two decades, these two states need care much more than West Bengal and Gujarat for Corona or No-Corona. In this regard, I must appreciate the recent steps of the Governments of UP and Bihar that each one made Acts to stop spitting in public space with provision of punishment. It is, however, a different proposition that brief tenure in Jail for the have-nots may be heaven particularly in a period of food-deficit at home.

I believe the Government of India is concerned for the innocent people more than the administration, be it in West Bengal or Gujarat. These people are the migrant workers – inter-state – who are neither residents of the destination nor could reach home-land. By home-land they do not understand India; they understand it as their “Gaon’’ (village). Most of these are from UP and Bihar. I also believe, the state of India is concerned to take care of future indefinite by food-job following past imperfect. This requires more than sending such Committees to selected states. I may assure the state as a responsible senior citizen that innocent people will abide by all unknown rules by re-starting migration for survival, sowing seeds to feed millions in spite of adverse terms of trade and suicide, and workers standing on labour squares in urban areas for any wage-work anywhere. After all, there is no free lunch for the workers – identified as poor in India by the competent committees.           

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

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Apr 26, 2020

Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

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