West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar today lashed out at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleging that her government was “muzzling” press freedom in the state and intimidating journalists by slapping false cases.
In a video interview to India TV from Kolkata, the Governor said: “The leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had a long discussion with me and he complained that the state government was muzzling press freedom and slapping false cases against journalists who do not toe the government line.
“The Leader of Opposition in assembly Abdul Mannan and Left Front and BJP leaders have also met me and made similar allegations”, Dhankhar said.
“If the editor of the largest Bengali daily Ananda Bazar Patrika is summoned for questioning by police, it is surely a matter of concern for the Governor. If false cases are foisted against journalists, it is also a matter of concern for me.
“Today I met office bearers of Press Club of Calcutta and I told them: ‘freedom of speech is important, but freedom after speech is more important’. You cannot have policemen knocking at your door if your write something against the government.”
The Governor alleged that in some districts, the officials are preventing telecast of some news channels on cable networks.
Lashing out at the state government for its handling of COVID-19 and Cyclone Amphan, the Governor alleged that no contingency plan was made by the state government to tackle the effects of cyclone.
“Never in Kolkata’s history did power, water, internet, connectivity went off for ten days. I salute our army, which was called after three days, to restore normalcy.”
The Governor also alleged that the state government was “maintaining a Constitutional distancing” from him, and has put all Opposition leaders in “quarantine”, while allowing ruling party leaders to move freely among the people.
Dhankhar alleged that because of “mismanagement” in dealing with COVID-19 there were three instances of unrest among Kolkata policemen within the span of one week.
The Governor said, he had asked the Chief Secretary to find out what there has been delay in getting COVID-19 reports on more than 40,000 tests conducted in the state.
“The Chief Secretary”, he said, “did not agree with the 40,000-plus figure but said it could be in several thousands. The reports have not come in even after more than two weeks.”
The Governor also alleged that the entire Public Distribution System has been “politicized” in the state, despite more than adequate supplies from Food Corporation of India and Nafed. “People are not getting relief in the form of foodgrains and pulses.”
Fight against Coronavirus: Full coverage