India's Ministry of Home Affairs came down hard on the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal for not allowing movement of goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh -- a move that it said could jeopardize India's international commitments to the neighbouring country.
In a letter to West Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha on May 6, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla stated that "The unilateral action on the part of government of West Bengal to stop the cross land border movement of essential goods would have larger implications for the Indian government with regard to its legally binding international commitments."
Bhalla told that by doing so, West Bengal was not just violating the ministry of home affairs' orders under Disaster Management Act but also Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India. Article 253 of the Constitution deals with the legislation for giving effect to international agreements while articles 256 and 257 give powers to the Centre for issuing directions to the state, Hindustan Times reported.
"It has been reported that goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh, falling in West Bengal, has still not resumed. As a result, a large number of trucks carrying essential supplies, bound for Bangladesh, are stranded at different border crossing points," the home secretary wrote in his letter.
"A number of drivers of such vehicles, while returning from Bangladesh, have also not been allowed to cross the border, and are stranded in Bangladesh," Bhalla added.
He reminded the state government of lockdown measures issued on May 1 according to which no state/union territory shall stop movement of cargo for cross-border land trade under treaties with neighbouring countries. He directed the Bengal chief secretary to allow access land border transportation through all Indo-Bangladesh borders "without any further delay" and send the report by Wednesday.
The state, however, maintained that it was following all norms. "We have been adhering to all norms of lockdown and social distancing. In case of Petrapole (a land port at the Bangladesh border) there has been some public issue. We will address the issue in due time after careful consideration of all the aspects involved," said Alapan Bandopadhyay, state home secretary.
The Centre also slammed the state government for violating lockdown instructions and social distancing norms, based on the findings of Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCT), as instances of people openly playing cricket or football, bathing in rivers and overcrowding in bazaars (markets) have come to its notice.
West Bengal, however, reported 112 new cases taking the tally to over 1450 and four deaths.