West Bengal Allows Flights, Train Services To Resume From Sept. 1
Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

West Bengal Allows Flights, Train Services To Resume From Sept. 1

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced a slew of relaxations by allowing flight operations from six Covid-19 hotspot states thrice a week and permitting metro and suburban train services to resume.

She also announced extension of closure of educational institutes till Sept. 20 and complete lockdown across West Bengal on Sept. 7, 11 and 12, saying Covid cases are rising in many places.

Banerjee said her government is willing to allow one- fourth of suburban trains services and full Metro Railway services with adequate safety protocols, including social distancing from Sept. 1. “We have received several requests to resume flight operations from six Covid hotspot states. So from Sept. 1, flight services from these six coronavirus-hit cities can operate thrice a week,” she said after a Cabinet meeting.

To combat the spread of coronavirus, the state government had imposed a ban till Aug. 31 on passenger flights to Kolkata from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Nagpur and Ahmedabad. “Schools, colleges and other educational institutes would remain closed in the state till Sept. 20. The other existing restrictions would be in place. There would be complete lockdown in the state on Sept. 7, 11 and 12. In some areas of the state cases are increasing,” she said.

Banerjee said regarding resumption of train services; the railways' authorities should speak with the state government officials to work on the modalities. The state government has been implementing bi-weekly total lockdown since July 23, after the admission of community transmission in some parts of the state.

Banerjee also demanded that the Centre distribute money from PM-CARES Fund to states to tackle Covid-19 pandemic.

“How will the states run the government? The Centre is not releasing any funds. What for the money has been raised in PM-CARES Fund? Why doesn’t the Centre distribute money from PM-Cares Fund to the states to combat Covid pandemic,” she said.

She said that none of the states was getting their portion of the GST from the central government nor any other financial aid. “Nobody is getting any money from the central government, how will we function? This is quite a serious situation,” she said.

Also read: GST Compensation Conundrum: Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Banerjee had during the day participated in the opposition-ruled states CM's meeting convened by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in which GST compensation to the states was discussed.

The state government's announcement of fresh lockdown dates drew the ire of the opposition parties which criticising the TMC regime for its failure to manage the Covid crisis. BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said the state government is completely clueless and has failed to control the situation.

"The state government has not only failed but is also clueless about the way forward," he said. CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty said the chief minister and her government had turned the exercise of lockdown into a "farce".

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