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Mamata’s appeal and solution on masks

‘I am repeatedly requesting everyone to wear a mask…. I too feel bad about it’
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee

Kinsuk Basu   |   Calcutta   |   Published 09.07.20, 03:10 AM

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday “requested” everyone to wear a mask and asked police to “strictly” enforce the norm that scientists say can play a significant role in preventing coronavirus infection.

Addressing officials from government hospitals and the health department at Nabanna, Mamata underscored the problems of enforcing such norms in India and talked about how futile her efforts had been to make her neighbourhood shopkeeper wear a mask.

She also wondered how someone who did not have the money to buy food could be fined Rs 2,000 for violating any Covid-related norm.

“Aami jorimana kortey paari kintu seta ki khub bhalo dekhabey (I can slap a fine but will it look good)?” she asked. “Can I fine a person Rs 2,000? Can a person who does not have the money to buy food be asked to pay up Rs 2,000? Will it solve the problem? No,” Mamata said.

The fine for not wearing a mask in Calcutta is Rs 50, under Section 41A (disorderly conduct) of CrPC. Officials said the chief minister had quoted the figure — Rs 2,000 — figuratively to explain the problem.

“I am repeatedly requesting everyone to wear a mask…. I too feel bad about it. There is a shop in my locality. I have repeatedly told him (the shopkeeper) to wear a mask. I have given him (masks) 10 times. But he simply won’t wear one,” the chief minister said. “Eder jonnyo aamar khoma chhara kichhui nei (I have nothing but forgiveness for them).”

The chief minister then went on to instruct the police to enforce the norm of wearing a mask whenever one steps out of home.

“Ask the police to strictly enforce it. If someone doesn’t wear a mask, send him home straight. Till the time he wears a mask, he won’t be allowed to step out. Byas hoye gyalo (That’s it). One-point programme,” she said.

On Wednesday, the police went to Gariahat market and asked shoppers to wear masks and maintain physical distancing. All police stations have been asked to do the same from Thursday, said an officer.

Over the last few days, the government has been trying to step up awareness about the importance of wearing masks. On July 2, state home secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay had issued an order to the police, including the commissioner of Calcutta police, underlining the need to enforce norms of physical distancing and wearing masks. Bandyopadhyay’s order had also mentioned initiating penal action against repeat offenders.

Following the order, Calcutta’s police commissioner Anuj Sharma asked officers to go around markets and places of public congregation.

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