Pratayay Amrut, a 1991-batch IAS officer, on Monday became the third principal secretary of health since the Covid-19 outbreak in Bihar. He replaced 1993-batch civil servant Uday Singh Kumawat who had taken charge from Sanjay Kumar, an officer of 1991 batch, on May 21.
The decision to change the principal secretary was taken by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar following complaints from Health Minister Mangal Pandey at a cabinet meeting on Saturday. The Bihar chapter of the Indian Medical Association had demanded on July 24 the removal of Kumawat on the grounds that he had been misbehaving with doctors. The association has also demanded the removal of district magistrates of Bhojpur and Gopalganj saying they are not cooperating with doctors during this crisis.
Since July 1, there has been a four-fold jump in the number of Covid-19 cases in the state. In the past 27 days, the number has risen from 10,000 to 41,111. On Monday, 2,192 new cases were reported, including 553 from Patna.
In the cabinet meeting itself, Nitish Kumar had admonished Kumawat and had warned: "If you are not interested, better quit." The CM was upset after Pandey told him that the bureaucrat wasn't coordinating with the minister in fighting the virus. While Nitish has asked for at least 20,000 tests daily, about half that number of people are being tested at present.
Two weeks ago, a three-member central team had visited the state and express their dissatisfaction over the way the crisis was being managed in Bihar.
Prataay is considered a confidant of Nitish since the latter took over as the CM in 2005. He has been assigned important departments since then. Currently, the officer heads the disaster management department and the state electricity board.
Sanjiv Hansh, the secretary of water resources department, has been asked to take over as the secretary of energy department and the head of the power board.
The Indian Medical Association had earlier criticised the move by the outgoing health secretary to reserve 25% of the beds for the civil and police officers. IMA has demanded a similar reservation for doctors too.
Meanwhile, grim news kept coming from different parts of Bihar. On Monday, the body of a corona patient was found lying on a bed at Nalanda Medical College Hospital, while a patient had been made to sleep on the floor at the entrance of the facility.
Hospital authorities claimed the delay in the disposal of bodies was because of shortage of hearse for corona victims. There are only three hearses and the number of deaths is four to five times higher, said officials.