KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday sought a Rs 1,500 crore package from the Centre to support the state government's efforts to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to reporters through video-conference from the state secretariat, Banerjee said the Centre should provide a special package as the state is finding it difficult to do "everything" with its "limited resources".
"We had made the same request at the all-party meeting two days back. The Centre should announce a special financial package for the state in the current situation," she said.
The chief minister said that while the state has created a Rs 200-crore fund, it is inadequate to procure all necessary equipment such as ventilators.
Banerjee said the Centre should work out special economic packages for all the states affected by the pandemic.
She also appealed to the corporates, industrialists and other organisations in the state to donate to the relief fund to effectively tackle the disease.
Responding to a question, she said the state government has the right to decide on certain provisions of the National Disaster Management Act and a call will be taken on whether some of them can be relaxed after reviewing the situation on March 31.
The Act has been invoked by the Centre without consulting the states "but we will later on decide which provision should be enforced and which not", Banerjee said.
She said people engaged by online platforms for delivery of food items, vegetable vendors and those in other essential services should not be stopped by police during the lockdown.
Farmers working in fields usually maintain distance between each other and there is no reason they should not be allowed to work, the chief minister said.
If required, passes should be issued to people employed for home delivery services, she said.
Banerjee warned of action if policemen were found stopping people working in essential services while praising the forces for its overall role in enforcing the lockdown.
"Some policemen at the lower level, civic volunteers, should also be sensitised by their superiors that those involved in essential services, like vegetable vendors, online food delivery boys, farmers should not be stopped," she said.
"Social distancing doesn't mean social isolation," the chief minister said.
She also warned of stern action if doctors, nurses and health workers are harassed by their neighbours.
Banerjee said that if someone runs out of food during the lockdown, the person should get in touch with the respective Block Development Officer.
She said there is no need to panic as the state has enough food grain in stock.
The government will provide one month's ration of rice to everyone and also give social pension to the poor so that no one faces the pinch of the lockdown, she said.
"Neighbourhood grocery stores will remain open and they will be able to source commodities from nearby markets that will function for a stipulated time," she said.
The chief minister urged people to maintain distance while buying essential items from ration shops or grocery stores.
She also said that a control room to monitor the emerging situation will work 24x7 in three shifts, having a nodal officer in each shift.
Banerjee said the task force formed by the state government is keeping a close tab on the entire situation, including the availability of essentials in the market.