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Govt wants people to get dailies: Mamata

CM repeatedly said stern action would be taken against those trying to disrupt delivery of essential services
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee interacts with journalists via videoconference at the state secretariat on Wednesday.

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya   |   Calcutta   |   Published 25.03.20, 08:24 PM

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday reasserted the people’s right to have access to newspapers and stressed the media’s status as an essential service exempted from the lockdown.

“Those running newspapers, those who want to take newspapers, there should be no problem…. The hawkers could be given a card from the newspapers concerned -– cards that read “Press/Media” -– and they should be recognised by the police,” Mamata said at Nabanna after a review meeting.

The chief minister’s comments came at a time vendors associated with some unions in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal are refusing to pick up newspapers for distribution till March 31 in the wake of rumours and misinformation on social media regarding the spread of Covid-19.


“(With the cards) if they want to go to homes and deliver the newspapers, they can…. Not dumping them together on the road, not crowding. Otherwise, if they want to sell newspapers, they should be able to,” the chief minister added.

“The state government wants, of course, that people get their information through newspapers… get the news, what is going on. The emergencies, the special provisions, everything,” Mamata said.

The chief minister, who repeatedly said stern action would be initiated against those trying to disrupt the delivery of essential services, sought to reassure those engaged in professions exempted from the prohibitory provisions of the lockdown.

“Home deliveries and other essential services -– especially keeping the elderly in mind -– cannot be disrupted. Their movement simply cannot be stopped. The companies and organisations concerned should get in touch with the police locally, or Lalbazar, or additional director-general (law and order) Gyanwant Singh…. They will be given permission, passes will be issued. So that their workers are able to do their work. We will issue a pass, these companies will attest them and issue to their workers,” Mamata said.

“Am I clear? People cannot be deprived of essential services,” the chief minister added. “There should be coordination between the districts so that there is no problem in inter-district movement.”

Sources in the administration said the finer details of the passes were worked out and issued in a separate order by chief secretary Rajiva Sinha in the evening. 

They said even without the order, the chief minister’s instructions were enough to prevent further harassment on a large scale. “She (Mamata) has ordered it, so it will certainly happen,” said a source in the ruling dispensation.

The chief minister urged the people to reach out to the administration -– “for any problem, whatsoever” -– through toll free numbers 1070 or +91-33-2214-3526.

“It is a single umbrella, the entire state’s unified control centre, so that there is no time wasted in coordination and transmission of information,” Mamata said.

The chief minister, who has been demanding assistance from the Centre for states to help cope with the pandemic, on Wednesday cited a figure.

“The Centre should provide a special financial package for the state in the current situation. We did create a Rs 200 crore fund, but that is inadequate…. the Centre should help out with Rs 1,500 crore. In fact, the Centre should work out such packages for all the states,” she said.

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