Top bureaucracy courts Coronavirus in Madhya Pradesh

A number of IAS officers in MP have tested positive for COVID-19 even as questions have been raised about their presence in official meetings, possibly exposing others to infection

Photo Courtesy: PTI
Photo Courtesy: PTI

Chandrakant Naidu

The top bureaucracy in Madhya Pradesh has placed itself on a powder keg by throwing caution to the winds.

With the number of positive cases in the state rising at an alarming rate, questions have cropped up on the officials attending meetings with the chief minister in the war room. On Tuesday the chief minister had gone as far as to suggest that people hiding infection with the Coronavirus could even face case for culpable homicide. Can the government act against its own officials who have been breaking the Corona care protocol with impunity?

The bureaucracy that was crippled on Saturday night due to Coronavirus effect remained off the track through Tuesday. The health department hierarchy had crumbled under burgeoning crisis with Principal secretary Health department, Mrs. Pallavi Jain-Govil and additional director of health Dr. Veena Sinha testing positive for the virus. Pallavi Jain-Govil is a 1994 batch IAS officer.

According to health department sources 33 persons including the Principal Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Deputy Director of Health Department, have been referred to different hospitals. Five of them had to be admitted on Sunday. The other 29 were admitted on Monday.

The top bureaucrats have finally quarantined themselves. They include Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Faiz Ahmed Kidwai and acting health director who has put up at the Lake View Ashoka Hotel. Collectors Nishant Barwade, S Dhanaraju, Sudam P Khade have moved to the guest house of Academy of Administration. Their families are quarantined at home. Dr Prateek Hajela, till recently the director of health, is also staying home. Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains has also quarantined himself.

Right to Information activist Ajay Dubey has asked the government why an FIR could not be filed against the officials who misled it about their health status or about their relatives who arrived from abroad. Dubey said he had requested the Chief Minister to act against officers who have been hiding their travel and contact history.

Police acts against people for lesser offences. Not long ago, a journalist, purportedly affected by the virus carried by his daughter returning from London, was hauled up for attending a press conference held by former Chief Minister Kamal Nath two weeks ago.

Over hundred journalists were asked to isolate themselves after one of them attended outgoing Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s press conference a fortnight ago. An FIR was filed against him for hiding information about his daughter’s return from London.

While others have been facing FIRs over lesser lapses, the Principal Secretary to the health department, Pallavi Jain-Govil, who also tested positive for COVID-19, is now facing a barrage of queries over hiding information about her son’s return from the US on March 16. She has been taking part in the meetings that included the Chief Minister, the chief secretary and the director general of police without going through the mandatory isolation.

Jain-Govil explained that her son had arrived from the US on March 16 and the US was not among the 12 nations listed by the government notification for restrictions to be observed. She said her son remained self-quarantined till March 30. She said her family has gone through mandatory tests. She had tested positive but was fit to perform work.

Some of the staff who have been meeting her for preparing daily health bulletins have not been screened for the virus. Dr Veena Sinha’s son has also arrived from the US after the outbreak of virus and she has also been laid down by the virus. The deputy director of Integrated disease surveillance programme, Pramod Goyal had also travelled to Indore, the hotspot of Corona in the state and has tested positive for the virus.

On Friday, IAS officer and Health Corporation MD J.J. Vijay Kumar tested COVID-19 positive. On Saturday, 12 IAS officers of the corona core group were home quarantined. Pallavi Jain-Govil and Veena Sinha were admitted to Bhopal AIIMS and their family members were also quarantined. Around 150 employees of Health Department are now under medical supervision.

While the whole world is fighting against Coronavirus but, strangely the Corona prevention department has become its carrier in Madhya Pradesh. The state is possibly the first in the country where Corona has the highest 33 cases from health department itself. Of the 20 new corona positive patients found in Bhopal on Monday, 10 are officers and employees of the Health Department. There are two doctors among them.

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