In an effort to check absenteeism among rural medical and veterinary officers, Punjab’s newly-appointed rural development and panchayat minister Sikander Singh Maluka seems to have turned the hierarchy upside down.
According to an order circulated by the department on Friday, block development and panchayat officers (BDPOs) and panchayat samiti chairpersons have been given powers to raid rural dispensaries to check whether doctors are present on duty or not. As per the circular, these BDPOs and chairpersons would conduct surprise checks at least once a week.
In terms of pay scales and official hierarchy, BDPOs are much below rural medical officers. Medical and veterinary officers work as Class-1 gazetted officers, but BDPOs and panchayat samiti chairpersons do not enjoy this status.
In March, director, rural development, SK Karuna Raju had issued an order for a similar purpose.
But that order mentioned that no official working on a post lower than of the additional deputy commissioner (ADC, development) or panchayat officers would be entitled to check these doctors.
The decision has caused resentment among rural doctors. A rural medical officer posted in Patiala district, who wished not to be named, said the move was unacceptable and against the rules of governance. “We are not afraid of checking. Any senior can do it. But can they pass an order which empowers a BDPO to check whether the director, rural development, is on duty?” he said.
Dr Aslam Parvez, president, Rural Medical Services Association, condemned the move. Despite repeated attempts, Maluka didn’t take calls from Hindustan Times.