In Bengal, more than 400 migrants test positive for Covid-19, state count soars
More than 400 migrant workers who returned from other states over the recent weeks have tested positive for Covid-19, resulting in a surge of Covid-19 cases in West Bengal’s rural areas.
Of them, the districts of Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Hooghly and Howrah are the most affected, as most of the state’s migrant workers hail from these districts. Of Bengal’s 23 districts, only two in north Bengal are presently unaffected by Covid-19.
Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Birbhum and Bankura had been among the districts unaffected by Covid-19 till two weeks ago. However, over the past one week, Malda has recorded 70 new Covid-19 cases and Murshidabad 53 new cases, while Hooghly and Howrah have recorded 84 and 98 cases, respectively, from the rural areas of these districts. Bankura has recorded 15 cases and Nadia 19 cases while East Burdwan has recorded 21 new coronavirus cases.
“Most of those who tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week, except for those in Kolkata, were migrant workers. We anticipate the numbers to go up as more results are awaited,” said a senior state government official who did not want to be identified.
On Wednesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the Centre for forcing the state to accept more migrant workers than its intake capacity, given the precautions that needed to be maintained.
“The Centre’s unplanned movement of migrant workers is turning rural Bengal red. It will also turn rural India red,” CM Banerjee said.
The state government has decided to requisition more schools to turn them into institutional quarantine centres for returning migrant workers. Those returning from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi will be sent to institutional quarantine centres, the administration has decided.
Banerjee’s statement, however, has created a political controversy. Congress’ Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “It is utterly insensitive for the chief minister to blame migrant workers for the spread of Covid-19. Migrant workers have been one of the biggest victims of this lockdown. We should sympathize with them and create proper infrastructure and management,” Chowdhury said.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit president Dilip Ghosh, too, took digs at her. “The CM is treating the migrant workers unfairly. It is because of the state’s inability to create jobs that they went to other states in search of jobs. It’s the state’s responsibility to look after their well being,” Ghosh said.