Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Health Department that emerged as a coronavirus hotspot with as many as 40 officers and staffers reporting infection, forcing the department to shut down the “State War Room” against Coronavirus since last Thursday, made a minor administrative reshuffle on Wednesday.
In a violation of COVID-19 protocol, about 40 health department employees and officials have tested positive, including seven who tested positive on Wednesday. These include Principal Secretary Pallavi Jain Govil, who was shunted from the department late on Tuesday evening, and was replaced by Additional Chief Secretary Md Suleman. Sudam P Khade has been appointed as director in place of an ailing J Vijay Kumar.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had removed the then commissioner, Prateek Hajela, several days ago over negligence in controlling the spread of the virus.
According to sources, sheer negligence on the part of senior officers has infected the whole system of the health department in the state. The officials not only contracted the infection but also avoided hospitalisation as per protocol. Additional directors Dr. Veena Sinha and Ruby Khan were almost forcefully hospitalised by the administration on Monday night.
After an outcry, the state Human Rights Commission on Tuesday served a notice to Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains seeking details of violations by Health officials.
Dr Upendra Dubey, Joint Director (Admin) in the department, was admitted to a private hospital after close to 100 locals had protested against him on Tuesday for being at home despite testing positive last Saturday.
Chouhan on Wednesday removed Bhopal's Chief Medical and Health Officer Dr Sudhir Dehariya, replacing him with Dr Prabhakar Tiwari. While Dehariya was also shunted out days ago, he was reinstated hours later.
Pallavi Jain Govil had been praised by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who had said, "It's with assistance from officials like you that we will soon get rid of the infection from the state."
However, the Chief Minister's admiration was not enough to dissuade the state Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) to seek a response from the government over allegations that some top bureaucrats had delayed their hospitalisation despite showing symptoms like to COVID-19.
The commission sent its notice following a news report and tweets by Congress MP Vivek Tankha, who wrote on Tuesday: Guidelines for #COVID2019india are binding for all - rich or small - powerful or weak. MP State Human Rights Commission strict notice to Chief Secy MP has affirmed it. Within hours all officials of health Dept ( 32) hv reached covid hospitals - life saver for many.
The Chief Secretary has been asked by the commission to respond to questions including when the officers mentioned in the news reports were tested positive and why they were not kept in isolation wards.
Pallavi Jain-Govil has been taking part in the meetings that included the Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary and other senior officials. A press release by the government's department of public relations on Tuesday defended her.
"Her son had arrived from the US on March 16 and as per the advisory issued by the Government of India, US was not among the 12 nations listed by the government notification for restrictions to be observed," it said.
As many as 14 senior IAS officers spearheading operations against coronavirus are in quarantine or home isolation including Health Commissioner Faiz Ahmed Kidwai. Besides senior officers, personal assistants and peons are also among those infected.
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