New Delhi: Tamil Nadu health secretary Beela Rajesh has been transferred amid a controversy over the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in the state, especially capital Chennai.
The transfer was announced by Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam. Rajesh will be succeeded by Dr J Radhakrishnan, who has earlier served a six-year stint as health secretary from 2012 to February 2019.
Rajesh has been transferred as secretary of commercial taxes and registration department. Her transfer comes after the Tamil Nadu government ordered an audit into reports that as many as 200 suspected Covid-19-linked deaths in Chennai did not make it to the state’s official toll.
The mismatch was blamed on procedural lapses, and Rajesh denied allegations of government fudging numbers to maintain a low death toll.
Questions were also raised when veteran news anchor and television actor S. Varadharajen was booked under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act after he tweeted a video and claimed a friend had been unable to get a hospital bed in Chennai.
ThePrint tried to get a comment from Rajesh, but she disconnected this reporter’s calls.
As of Thursday, Tamil Nadu had reported 38,716 cases of Covid-19 and 349 deaths.
‘Teamwork is key’
Before this appointment, Health Secretary Dr J. Radhakrishnan was the special nodal officer for the Greater Chennai Corporation, leading the Covid-19 task force. He held additional charge as principal secretary of revenue administration, and disaster management and mitigation.
According to the government notice on the appointment, Radhakrishnan will continue to hold the post of principal secretary/ commissioner of revenue administration as an additional charge until further notice.
He was the health secretary during the 2015 Chennai floods, and the collector of the coastal district Nagapattinam during the 2004 tsunami. His relief work during the tsunami was widely acknowledged.
Speaking to ThePrint, Radhakrishnan said the post came as a surprise. “Usually, when one leaves a post, they don’t get appointed again. Therefore, this came as a surprise. My approach to work will continue to be the same,” he added.
Aside from ensuring safety measures such as wearing a mask, maintaining hygiene and social distancing, he said the focus should also be on clinical management of patients. Asked about reports of lack of beds, he said he would work on resolving the issue.
“Teamwork is the key at this point,” he added.