Virtually defying Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to observe 'janata curfew' on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m, West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee government has decided to operate public transport and directed teachers to come to school in connection with the mid-day meal (MDM) programme.
An official said no decision has been taken to cancel bus, mini bus, tram or vessel services on the Ganges on Sunday. The sort of public transport services provided on other Sundays will be there on the morrow. However, all transport vehicles will be sprayed with germicide before they are operated.
In office orders, teachers have been asked to attend schools on Saturday and Sunday towards procurement and preparatory works for distribution of rice and potato under MDM programme during closure of schools till April 15 due to COVID-19.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently announced distribution of two kilo each of rice and potato to every student during the closure.
"You are requested to keep open your school/Madrasah on Saturday and Sunday (March 21 and 22) towards procurement and preparatory world for distribution. For smooth distribution, please ensure picking by Sunday,a said an internal memo issued by the Inspector of schools of every district to the headmaster/teacher in-charge of junior high, high, higher secondary school and Madrasah.
"Today we procured rice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we will pick our quota of potatoes. The state government has issued a formal written order. We have to go. There is no other option," the teacher of a junior high school told IANS.
The Mamata Banerjee government's decision has come for heavy criticism from the BJP.
Calling the decision "motivated", state BJP General Secretary Sanyantan Basu said, " Mamata Banerjee has chosen this day as the prime minister has called for a Janata Curfew to carry forward our fight against the Corona virus menace. Banerjee is putting the lives of so many people at grave risk for her "disgusting" brand of politics".
However, Trinamool leader Snehasish Chakraborty said: "I don't think the state BJP leadrs have listened to the prime minister's address intently. He has never called for stalling emergency services. In this case, the teachers are providing an emergency service, because the families of many students depend on the MDM scheme for ensuring proper nutrition of their wards".