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Bring governance back on track within 100 days of resuming work, PMO tells ministries

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has asked all Union ministries to complete the backlog of the Covid-19 lockdown within 100 days of resuming work, ThePrint has learnt.

The ministries are expected to get their full working staff above the rank of deputy secretary from 20 April onwards.

According to sources from several ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sent a communication to the departments, asking them to prepare priority lists for work that has suffered due to the lockdown, and complete them within 100 days.

“We have been given a maximum of 100 days to complete all pending work, and get the government functioning in order,” said a senior official who didn’t wish to be named.

“This applies to officials as well as ministers… The thinking in the government is that governance cannot be allowed to suffer more.”

The PMO spokesperson, Ravi Rama Krishnan, when reached for a comment, said while there was no formal or written communication from the PMO on this, the directive could have been routed through the DoPT, which also falls under the PMO.

ThePrint also reached PIB spokesperson Kuldeep Dhatwalia through phone call and text message, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.

Although most ministries kept functioning remotely through e-office, and online platforms Zoom and WhatsApp, everything other than Covid-related work took a backseat to some extent, the official said. “Hundred days is a realistic timeline.”

All officers above the deputy secretary level in the central government have been asked to report to work after 20 April, the sources said. Starting this week, all government officers above the rank of joint secretary resumed office.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also told all Union ministers to ensure that efforts are made to get back to normalcy as soon as possible, even as norms of social distancing are followed strictly.


Also read: Modi govt now plans to rank ministries on how they implement direct benefit transfer scheme


‘Covid-19 became priority’

All the ministers in the Modi government have been carrying out weekly reviews of the ongoing work in each ministry through video conferencing, said a second official.

“So, in that sense, work did not quite stop… Even officials were coming whenever needed,” the official added on condition of anonymity. “It is just that Covid-related work became a priority for everyone.”

At the beginning of the 21-day lockdown imposed on 24 March, which has now been extended until 3 May, government officials were instructed to work from home as much as possible.

All senior officers in the ministries have since been either working from home or attending offices on staggered timings and rotations.

Meanwhile, most junior staff such as section officers and deputy secretaries are mostly working from home – which too could change after 20 April, according to sources.

However, there is no clarity yet on whether consultants attached to the central government, who too have been working from home since the lockdown, will be required to come to work after 20 April.


Also read: How India’s young IAS officers ensured a smooth lockdown in every corner of the country


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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