Chandigarh tricity gets Covid coordination committee
Facing flak for poor tricity coordination in Covid management, Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab on Tuesday decided to constitute a committee comprising deputy commissioners of UT, Panchkula and Mohali.
The committee will meet twice a week online and coordinate on various issues pertaining to Covid-19 management, such as lockdown restrictions, hospitals, supply lines, and vaccinations.
The three administrations were forced into action after directions from the Punjab and Haryana high court on setting up a unified command centre for the tricity Covid management.
The division bench of justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh, which was hearing a petition related to Covid-19 surge, had last week observed: “In case a joint strategy is drawn up, it may be easier to tackle the present crisis. In case, there is a common platform to deliberate upon the strategies to be adopted, it would be easier to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic.”
On Tuesday, Punjab governor and UT administrator VP Singh Badnore called a meeting of chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana.
In the meeting, it was also decided that director, health services, of Mohali, Panchkula and Chandigarh will also meet twice a week over video conference to decide uniform and coordinated approach in medical treatment of Covid patients, under the guidance of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).
In case of emergencies, anywhere in the tricity, the authorities concerned will provide oxygen, medicines and medical equipment, such as ventilators, to each other to avoid any untoward incident.
The UT will also request the high court for a separate quota of 5 metric ton of liquid medical oxygen, exclusively for PGIMER.
Even though the tricity is a de facto single urban complex, the three administrations have struggled to have a uniform policy on Covid management. Varied night curfew timings, lockdown restrictions and failure to assist to each other has plagued the pandemic management.
Notably, the three DCs already attend the regular Covid review meeting chaired by the UT administrator, but it has failed to lead to any improvement in coordination.
“In the scheme of state government policy formulation, the local DCs have a very limited say. The UT’s attempts at involving higher officials regularly in the tricity coordination have not yielded positive results. This has been the case during the pandemic and also previously in management of other important issues. For instance, in the current scenario, a committee comprising health secretaries of the three governments could have been constituted,” said a senior Chandigarh official, requesting anonymity.
The institutionalised interstate coordination mechanism for the tricity has been lying dormant. One such apex body – interstate coordination committee – hasn’t met for the past six years.
R Srinivas, town and country planner, ministry of housing and urban affairs, said: “An interstate coordination committee for the three administration was set up by the Centre in 1975. Its last meeting was held in 2016, but since then, it is dormant. The committee comprises of chief secretaries of all three governments, and secretaries from the Union ministries.”
Similarly, the apex committee of tricity, comprising the UT administrator and chief secretaries, hasn’t met for more than a year and a half. Most of its previous recommendations, too, largely remain on paper. For instance, a committee under the UT adviser, set up to look into and resolve health and transport issues of the tricity, has not much to show as results.
Even the North Zonal Council, headed by the Union home minister, last met around two years ago. The council meetings are attended by state chief ministers along with the UT administrator.
Urvashi Gulati, former chief secretary, Haryana, said: “Formal institutions have always been there for coordination between the three governments. Though, in normal times there have been instances when there was lack of urgency, the current circumstances require utmost coordination so that the pandemic’s impact can be minimised.”