West Bengal’s Covid-19 pandemic situation seems to have significantly improved over the past two months. Data shows the state’s number of Covid-19 cases in July were 19.4 times lower than the number of cases recorded in May when the second wave of the pandemic reached its peak in the state in the immediate aftermath of the state's five-week-long assembly elections.
Compared to 548,011 cases recorded in May, the state recorded only 28,236 cases in July. As a result, the number of active cases has sharply come down from 87,048 on May 31 to 11,113 on July 31.
Citing such improvement of the situation, the state’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has started mounting pressure on the election commission of India to conduct elections in seven assembly constituencies earlier. Mamata Banerjee needs to get elected by November 5 to continue as the chief minister, as she did not win from the Nandigram assembly constituency even though she led her party to a historic victory.
After a TMC delegation’s visit to the office of the election commission in New Delhi last month, another TMC delegation led by the party’s secretary-general Partha Chatterjee submitted a deputation with West Bengal’s chief electoral officer Ariz Aftab on August 5, urging the ECI to expedite the process of conducting elections in seven seats where the election was either postponed due to the death of a candidate, or the winner died or resigned.
“Three months have passed since the government has been formed but there is no initiative yet on the part of the ECI to conduct these elections,” Chatterjee said, adding, “The pandemic situation has significantly improved compared to the time when the state-wide elections took place and the present situation is under control.”
The state witnessed a steep rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the immediate aftermath of the elections which witnessed a nearly two-month-long campaign that included rallies attended by thousands of people.
From recording on 11,797 cases in March, the state recorded a 20-times jump in April, recording 241,451 cases, and a further leap in May when a whopping 548,011 cases were recorded. The situation started improving in June when the state reported 123,406 cases.
Nevertheless, the numbers recorded in July are still higher than the 5,120 recorded in February and 11,797 in March, when the first wave hit the bottom and the second wave was yet to rise.
The situation in Kolkata has significantly improved, too. Compared to 12,104 active cases on May 31 and 1,656 active cases on June 30, the number of active Covid-19 cases on July 31 was 716.
The new concern for the state is Darjeeling. The hill station, after having recorded only 18,644 cases between April 2020 and March 2021, reported 5,042 cases in April 2021 and 19,065 cases in May. The popular tourist spot recorded another 7,957 cases in June and 2,664 cases in July.
The district with a population of only 15.95 lakh, according to the Census of 2011, and about 60% rural population, still has the state’s second-highest number of active cases - 1,191 on July 31, whereas North 24-Parganas, which had the highest active cases – 1,277 on July 31 – has a population of one crore, according to the Census of 2011.
The elections are due in the districts of Cooch Behar, Nadia, North 24-Parganas, Murshidabad, Kolkata, and South 24-Parganas. Mamata Banerjee is expected to contest from her old constituency of Bhawanipur.
The ECI recently conducted a Rajya Sabha bye-election in which the TMC’s candidate Jawhar Sircar, won uncontested.