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State government may replace health secretary

His failure to control the dengue menace and the tout raj in government hospitals seem to have irked the chief minister.

kolkata Updated: Oct 04, 2016 18:18 IST
Subhendu Maiti
The secretary of another department held a series of meetings of the health at the state secretariat even when the health secretary was present in the city.
The secretary of another department held a series of meetings of the health at the state secretariat even when the health secretary was present in the city. (Subhendu Ghosh)

Will R S Shukla, principal secretary in charge of the health department, be removed from his post after Durga Puja? There is a great deal of speculation at the state secretariat, Nabanna, and the health department headquarters, Swasthya Bhawan, that chief minister Mamata Banerjee is not happy with Shukla’s performance in several areas, mainly his failure to combat the dengue outbreak that is ravaging the state, claiming more than 40 lives and affecting 7,000 people since July.

Shukla was brought to the health department in January replacing Malay Kumar De, former additional chief secretary in the department. De was put in charge of the home department.

Read: Factory workers join hands with health body to open its third hospital in Bengal

Sources in the health department said that some moves to transfer Shukla have already been initiated at the state secretariat.

Following the directive of the chief minister, a senior bureaucrat of a different department has already held several meetings to discuss different health issues such as a dengue outbreak and the touts’ menace in different government medical colleges and hospitals, particularly in the city, a senior official at Swasthya Bhawan pointed out.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has always kept the health department with her and has always been sensitive about this portfolio. (Ashok Nath Dey)

The meetings headed by the senior bureaucrat were held at Nabanna even though Shukla was in the city.

“These developments indicate that the chief minister is not satisfied with Shukla’s performance. She wants to overhaul the health department. Also, there are other developments. For instance, the government has appointed Manmeet Nanda, an IAS officer, to look after the 13 state-run medical colleges in Bengal. The move itself indicates that the Mamata Banerjee administration wants to clip Shukla’s wings,” the official said requesting anonymity.

Read: Two more dengue deaths reported in West Bengal, toll rises to 22

“For the first time since 1992, when the erstwhile Left Front government had appointed one person in charge of medical education and another in charge of healthcare, the Trinamool Congress government has appointed Nanda to look after the teaching hospitals. A health secretary along with the director of medical education (DME) usually monitored medical education in the state before this development,” the official said.

An official of SSKM Hospital said that the recent drive against touts at the medical colleges and hospitals in the city was launched with directives from Nabanna instead of Swasthya Bhawan.

“The chief minister got some idea of the plight of patients waiting at different outdoor departments at SSKM during her 15 minute-long on-the-spot surprise visit to the hospital recently. She had reportedly called up Shukla from the spot expressing serious concern over the state of affairs. After that episode, she directed a senior bureaucrat at Nabanna to look after the affairs of government hospitals,” the official said.

Shukla did not respond to HT’s phone calls.