Amid Centre’s advisory on public gathering over coronavirus, Mamata addresses 10,000 at award ceremony
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday addressed thousands of people inside Kolkata’s largest indoor stadium during a government sports award ceremony, a day after the Centre issued advisories to states to ensure no public gathering takes place to check the spread of coronavirus.
Mamata Banerjee’s move drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties in the state, who alleged it was irresponsible of her to continue with the event under the changed circumstances.
Banerjee came to the Netaji Indoor Stadium with a copy of the Centre’s advisory and read it out.
“The Union government has asked to ensure that no public gathering, including for sporting events, takes place. There are restrictions on organising events. We have gathered despite that because such days do not come regularly,” she said after that.
The event was held to confer sports awards and felicitation of West Bengal’s prominent sports personalities by the state government, apart from distribution of grants to about 26,000 sports clubs across the towns and villages of Bengal.
Nearly 10,000 people were present at the venue, according to an officer of the state’s sports and youth affairs department. The stadium has a capacity of 12,000 seats.
Apart from prominent sports personalities, several thousand representatives from various clubs attended the event. Minister and the junior minister for sports and youth affairs, Aroop Biswas and Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, were also present.
The gathering also included the football teams of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and the government planned to felicitate both teams, East Bengal for its centenary year and Mohun Bagan for winning the I-League.
Mamata Banerjee also advised people on how to protect from the spread of coronavirus.
“We need to take precaution for one or two months and avoid crowded places. Avoid human contact for some time. Replace handshake with namaskar and maintain distance with any person you are interacting with,” she said.
She also ordered that the grants would be sent to the clubs through the police. “Club representatives do not need to stand in queues,” she said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress leaders in the state criticised her decision of not cancelling or postponing the event.
“This is grossly irresponsible for a chief minister to continue with the event and, above all, herself attending it. The event could have easily been postponed. But she did not want to lose out of any mileage out of the government grant to clubs, especially ahead of the statewide civic polls,” BJP’s state unit general secretary Sayantan Basu said.
“She could have arranged for sending the grants to the clubs, without inviting so many people here. However, it seems she is beyond every rule or norm,” said veteran Congress legislator Manoj Chakraborty.
A 76-year-old man in Karnataka has died of Covid-19 and the number of coronavirus patients in the country has risen to 75, including foreign nationals, so far.
State health officials said on Thursday night that 1865 people have been kept under home surveillance, while three are under observation in isolation wards of hospitals.
“Till date, 49 samples have been sent to National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune and ICMR-NICED, Kolkata, for the test of Covid-19, out of which 48 samples have come as negative. Result of one sample is awaited,” a top official of the state health department said on Thursday night.