If some of India’s politicians are any indication, the world might be justified in its concerns around how India will deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
“We need to take precaution for one or two months and avoid crowded places. Avoid human contact for some time. Replace handshake with namaskar and maintain distance with any person you are interacting with,” said Mamata Banerjee during an address on Friday. The only problem? She was addressing a gathering of 10,000.
A day after the Centre had issued advisories to states to ensure no public gathering takes place to check the spread of coronavirus, Mamata Banerjee addressed an event around a government sports awards ceremony at the Netaji Indoor stadium. The stadium’s capacity is 12,000, and an estimated 10,000 people were present at the event.
Banerjee seemed fully cognizant of the Central government’s advisory — she even read it out on stage — but still chose to go ahead with the event. “The Union government has asked to ensure that no public gathering, including for sporting events, takes place. There are restrictions on organising events. We have gathered despite that because such days do not come regularly,” she said.
Mamata Banerjee’s move drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties in the state, who alleged it was irresponsible of her to continue with the event under the changed circumstances. “This is grossly irresponsible for a chief minister to continue with the event and, above all, herself attending it. The event could have easily been postponed. But she did not want to lose out of any mileage out of the government grant to clubs, especially ahead of the statewide civic polls,” BJP’s state unit general secretary Sayantan Basu said.
The event was held to confer sports awards and felicitation of West Bengal’s prominent sports personalities by the state government, apart from distribution of grants to about 26,000 sports clubs across the towns and villages of Bengal. Apart from sports personalities, several thousand representatives from various clubs attended the event. Minister and the junior minister for sports and youth affairs, Aroop Biswas and Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, were also present. The football teams of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal were also in attendance.
The coronavirus outbreak now has spread across India, and more than a 100 people have tested positive.