Mamata Banerjee exempts farmers from Covid-19 lockdown, appeals for funds – india news


Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday asked the police not to stop farmers from taking part in agricultural activities, saying farming cannot stop during the lockdown to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Out of sheer ignorance vegetable vendors have been stopped in many places. We cannot stop supply of vegetables to people. Delivery boys carrying essential items cannot be stopped as well. Similarly farmers cannot be stopped from working in the fields,” Banerjee said at a media conference at the state secretariat in the afternoon.

“Agriculture cannot stop. Farmers work alone in the fields, keeping a long distance from each other. The administration should only ensure that they do not gather in one place. Farmers are quite conscious. Tea gardens should also be open,” said Banerjee.

She also announced that farmers, old people and others who get social pension from the state will be given their dues for March and April together. Hotels, guest houses and marriage halls are also being requisitioned to provide accommodation to doctors and healthcare staff.

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The chief minister also made a fund raising pitch to fight the pandemic that has infected over 600 people in the country. Bengal has eight cases of infection and one casualty.

“The state’s coffers are almost empty. We appeal to NRIs, corporate houses and PSUs to donate. They can also help us with materials,” said the chief minister. Banerjee also read out details of the bank account of the state relief fund.

The chief minister also announced a task force and a 24-hour control room. She said inter-district passes should be issued to people attached to emergency services or carrying essential items such as medicine.

“Many doctors living in rented places have been asked to vacate by their landlords. This must stop. I don’t want to hear such reports again. Similarly, don’t jump to conclusions if someone is running common cold and force him to run to hospital,” said Banerjee.

Banerjee said community block development officers and local police stations in the districts have to ensure that people do not starve if they are stranded.

Banerjee said fair price shops have been asked to give a month’s ration to people. Also mid-day meals will be sent to the homes of children by Anganwadi workers.

“Housekeeping staff will be provided food by state-run hospitals. Funds will be released by the health department,” said Banerjee.

On Wednesday a 24-year-old woman was arrested in Salt Lake for abusing policemen and using a lipstick to soil the uniform of a police officer who stopped the radio taxi she was riding with her male friend. The officer wanted to know where the passengers were going. The woman could not give any satisfactory reply. Her friend and the driver were arrested too, said SP Yadav, deputy commissioner (headquarters) of Bidhannagar Police.

In Hooghly district, a Trinamool Congress civic body councillor was arrested when he allegedly heckled policemen while they were shutting down a sweetmeat shop.

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