With an eye on assembly elections next year, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday announced an extension of free ration for poor till June 2021.
Her announcement came within an hour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation in which he announced the extension of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, the scheme to provide free ration to the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic, till the end of November.
Assembly elections in Bengal is likely to be held in April-May 2021 and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is facing a strong challenge from Modi’s BJP.
Minutes after Modi’s announcement on free ration scheme, Banerjee said, “I am extending free ration for poor till June 2021.”
The Chief Minister said that only 60% people in Bengal get central rations and the quality of foodgrains in the state is better than that of the Centre.
Speaking on lockdown relaxations, Banerjee said the state will provide relaxations outside containment zones under the Unlock 2.0 guidelines, adding that she has asked police to impose lockdown strictly in containment zones.
“Since the night curfew is from 10 pm to 5 am, 5:30 am-8:30 am morning walk will be allowed. However, masks have to be worn and social distancing to be maintained,” she said.
Banerjee said the state chief secretary has written two letters – one to Railway Board and another to Civil Aviation Ministry – for resuming metro rail services and to suspend domestic flights from cities like Delhi and Mumbai where a large number of COVID-19 cases have been reported.
“Today chief secretary has written letters to Central Home Secy regarding metro and flight services. Like international flights have been stopped till July 15 we requested restriction of domestic flights from hotspots and to start metro for people engaged in essential services,” Banerjee said.
She also announced the opening of Changrabadha border in Coochbehar between India and Bangladesh will for trade.
On cyclone Ambhan rebuilding efforts, the Chief Minister said an all-party meeting has been called for worst-hit Sunderbans.
She also announced the decision to resume bus services in the state even of private players show reluctance.
“We have taken one more decision, if private buses don’t hit the streets despite the state government’s efforts to reach out to associations, offer Rs 15,000 financial aid for each month, if they don’t ply tomorrow, we will acquire private buses. We will take action as per the Disaster Management Act and a state government driver will take over. If the buses don’t ply then by July 3, law will take its own course as per NDMA and we will acquire private buses and run them,” she said.