Mumbai: Doctors-turned-IAS take charge of civic bodies in MMR

Updated: Jun 25, 2020, 07:45 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Unlike other natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic needs both administrative and medical expertise

SRPF personnel on COVID-19 duty in Mumbra. Pic/Sameer Markande
SRPF personnel on COVID-19 duty in Mumbra. Pic/Sameer Markande

Bureaucrats who studied medicine have been given the charge of four municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) to mitigate the rising COVID-19 cases. The state government thinks that the IAS officers' MBBS degrees will ensure a medico-administrative response.

On Tuesday, the government-appointed Dr Vipin Sharma, Dr Vijay Rathod and Dr Mantada Raja Dayanidhi as commissioners of the civic corporations of Thane, Mira-Bhayandar and Ulhasnagar respectively. On June 19, the government had made Dr Pankaj Ashiya head of the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation. A non-medico, Abhijit Bangar, was made the Navi Mumbai civic chief. mid-day has extensively reported the rising COVID-19 cases in these cities.

Dr Ashiya had been effective in Malegaon in Nashik district and Thane where he worked as a special monitoring officer for COVID-19. Dr Rathod and Dr Dayanidhi worked well as the CEOs (chief executive officers) of Gadchiroli and Gondia Zilla Parishads where the COVID-19 positive cases are negligible. Dr Sharma, who had been waiting to be posted, has worked in big municipal corporations.

Luckily, Maharashtra's Indian Administrative Service wing has 22 MBBS degree-holders. Of these, Dr Pradeep Kumar Vyas and Dr Sanjay Mukherjee had been heading the public health and medical education departments, respectively, since much before the outbreak. Other doctor-officers have been holding senior and junior positions in different parts of the state and New Delhi. The doctors who work as district collectors and CEOs of Zilla Parishads have been impressive in their work.

Other medico-turned-babus in Mumbai and elsewhere have been given additional roles suiting their medical background. Dr Nitin Kareer, additional chief secretary (revenue) is part of the apex pandemic mitigation apparatus. District Collectors Dr Abhijit Chaudhari (Sangli), Dr Kunal Khemnar (Chandrapur), Dr Kadambari Balkawade (Gondia), Dr Rajendra Bharud (Nandurbar), assistant collectors Dr Indurani Jakhar (Gadchiroli) and Dr Shrikrishanath Panchal (Bhandara), and Divisional Commissioner of Nagpur Dr Sanjeev Kumar are among the doctor-officers.

Need extra efforts
Since the pandemic has been a serious concern in urban areas, the government has rolled heads where felt necessary. Mumbai was the first to get a new municipal commissioner. The corporations in MMR need extra efforts because the cases have been rising even since before Unlock 1 which started in the first week of June. In Mumbai, the doubling period of positive cases has reduced significantly but the administration has returned to a total shutdown in the northern suburbs where the infection has increased manifold.

Last week, the municipal chiefs of Panvel and Bhiwandi-Nizampur were shunted out. In April, Vasai-Virar was given D Gangatharan as its civic chief. Shridhar Patankar who was made Ambernath Municipal Council's CEO recently was shunted on Wednesday. Solapur civic corporation and Jalgaon district collectorate also got new officers following the rising number of cases.

Maharashtra chief secretary Ajoy Mehta told mid-day that the pandemic was unlike other natural disasters. "In disasters like floods, earthquakes, etc. the response is purely administrative. But this is a health crisis that needs medico-admin response. And these officers are suitable for both medical and administrative aspects," he said.

Welcoming the decision, chairman of Indian Medical Council's action committee, Dr Suhas Pingale, said, "A trained doctor will always be a better administrator in such a grave health crisis. The non-medico bureaucrats need advice from the doctors, but since the medico-turned-IAS officers are already trained in analysing the data, they will be able to make quick and fair decisions."

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