With the arrest of a top official of the state health department in a bribery case late on Wednesday night, the functioning of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled Himachal Pradesh government has once again come under the scanner.
The health department which is directly headed by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is embroiled in serious controversies over the last couple of months, starting with the unceremonial removal of renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mukand Lal from the post of principal, Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), allegedly to accommodate certain individuals, and allegations of syphoning off of COVID funds made by the state Congress unit.
On Thursday, Director Health Service (DHS), Himachal Pradesh, Dr Ajay Gupta was arrested by the state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VB) for his alleged involvement in a corruption case. Dr. Gupta was arrested after a 43-second audio clip, purportedly of a conversation regarding a transaction of Rs 5 lakh in lieu of some supply in the health department, came into circulation. Following the circulation of the clip, the VB registered a case and arrested Dr. Gupta after questioning him for about five hours.
ADGP (Vigilance) Anurag Garg told the media that Dr Ajay gave evasive and misleading replies to their queries. The accused was medically examined in IGMCH as per procedure and was admitted there since he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. The case is being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit of the state police, he added.
After the arrest of Dr Gupta, the government has given the charge of DHS to Dr Bharat Bhushan Katoch, a joint director in the directorate of state health services.
The Himachal unit of the Congress has said that the arrest of the top official of the health department was a matter of serious concern. Congress leaders including HPCC chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore, Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and others have come down heavily on the BJP-ruled government.
They claimed that earlier, a scam related to sanitizers and PPT kits had come to light, following which the CM ordered a vigilance enquiry, and now the arrest of DHS in a corruption case has exposed the Jai Ram Thakur government.
The Congress leaders have demanded that the state government must come clean on the motive behind removal of Dr. Mukand Lal from IGMC principal’s post, transfer of a woman SDM from Nadaun, purchases made by the health department and funds spent to deal with COVID-19.