West Bengal, May 11 (ANI): West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attends the 5th video conference meeting of Chief Ministers of States under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on COVID-19 situation, in Kolkata on Monday. (ANI Photo)(ANI)
West Bengal, May 11 (ANI): West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attends the 5th video conference meeting of Chief Ministers of States under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on COVID-19 situation, in Kolkata on Monday. (ANI Photo)(ANI)

After food secretary, West Bengal removes health secretary; BJP targets Mamata Banerjee

Vivek Kumar is the second top bureaucrat to be transferred after food and supplies secretary Manoj Kumar Agarwal, who was sent on “compulsory wait” amid allegations of malpractices in the public distribution system.
Hindustan Times, Kolkata | By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
UPDATED ON MAY 12, 2020 03:16 PM IST

The West Bengal government has shifted health secretary Vivek Kumar from his post against the backdrop of a controversy over its handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

Kumar is the second top bureaucrat to be transferred after food and supplies secretary Manoj Kumar Agarwal, who was sent on “compulsory wait” amid allegations of malpractices in the public distribution system.

In a notification issued on Monday night, the government transferred Kumar to the environment department as principal secretary. Narayan Swaroop Nigam, the transport secretary, will take charge of the health and family welfare department in his place.

Following this move, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal opposition to the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, criticised the Mamata Banerjee government and alleged Kumar had been made a scapegoat.

“This is called passing the blame on to someone else. Why was Kumar removed when chief minister Mamata Banerjee is also the health minister? She should have admitted her own mistakes. Owning up mistakes does not belittle anyone,” the BJP national general secretary and head of the party’s West Bengal unit, Kailash Vijayvargiya, tweeted.

Anirban Ganguly, a member of BJP’s central policy research wing, tweeted: “Having abdicated her responsibilities as Health Minister @MamataOfficial makes her Health Secretary Vivek Kumar the scapegoat.”

Arjun Singh, the BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Barrackpore, wrote, “Didi continues to give competition to Tughlaq and beat him hands down. Principal Secretary Health and family welfare dept. Shri Vivek Kumar, has been transferred as he failed in covering up the lies of WBgov, as was ordered by his boss @MamataOfficial.”

Trinamool Congress spokesperson Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, a Lok Sabha member and doctor by profession, rubbished BJP’s allegations. “It must have been a routine transfer because there is no question of deficiency, negligence, and poor performance on the part of the health department. Our health department is doing better than many other states on multiple parameters.”

Some other officials in the state health department said Kumar had fallen out with the state government on a number of issues, including the mechanism for reporting daily updates on the Covid-19 situation.

West Bengal has been criticised by the Union government and all opposition parties in the state for its handling of the pandemic, including lack of proper supplies for hospitals and frontline medical staff, alleged fudging of data, low testing rate and high mortality rate.

The food secretary was removed in April amid widespread allegations of mismanagement in the public distribution system.

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