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Top officials earn Modi flak — ‘should have been better prepared’ to handle 2nd Covid wave

The dressing down came at a meeting chaired by Modi to review the status of preparedness to handle the Covid surge in the second wave.

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New Delhi: With the central government caught napping as the country struggled with the deluge of Covid cases during the fresh wave of the pandemic, some of the country’s top bureaucrats got a dressing down from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to handle the situation in a better way, government sources told ThePrint.

The officials were pulled up Saturday at a meeting chaired by Modi to review the status of preparedness to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Principal Secretary to the PM P.K. Mishra, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Pharma Secretary S. Aparna, and Niti Aayog member Dr V.K. Paul, among others.

Government sources privy to what transpired at the meeting said an “upset” Modi told the senior officials how their efforts this time around has not been up to the mark. “He told the bureaucrats in as many words that they have not been as enthusiastic in responding to the crisis like last time,” said a source.

The PM told the officials that with the experience gained from handling the Covid pandemic situation last year, they should have been better prepared this time around, the sources said.

“The PM told the bureaucrats that at that time India did not have anything initially, be it PPE kits or mask. He said that the government overcame the challenge and started manufacturing PPE kits, masks and ventilators. With the experience gained from last time, the PM said, we should have been better prepared,” said the source quoted above.

ThePrint approached Jaideep Bhatnagar, Director General, Press Information Bureau, who is the official spokesperson for the government, and the PMO through emails Tuesday for comments but did not get a response till the time of publishing this report.

Also read: More ‘deaths by illness’ in Ahmedabad than Covid as crematoriums see rise in ‘bimari’ funerals

‘What good are the task forces for?’ 

One of the government sources ThePrint spoke to, who is in the forefront of handling the Covid situation, said the PM also wanted to know what good are all the task forces and expert groups if they could not see the deluge of Covid cases coming during the second wave.

“The PM asked the bureaucrats what is the use of having expert groups with technical knowledge if it could not help them prepare for such a huge number of cases,” the source said.

The Modi government had in March 2020 constituted 11 empowered groups headed by secretaries to plan and ensure quick implementation of decisions taken to check the spread of the novel coronavirus. These 11 groups were in September replaced by six larger groups to deal with various issues, including looking into medical infrastructure and Covid management plan.

After having been caught napping when the second wave of the Covid pandemic hit India, the government has now gone into an emergency mode.

PM Modi has held over half-a-dozen back-to-back meetings in the last two days with various stakeholders to fast-track the government’s response mechanism, be it ramping up vaccine production or ensuring supply of medical oxygen to states that are reporting shortage.

At Saturday’s meeting, Modi also said the Centre should ensure close coordination with states to ramp up the availability of hospital beds for Covid patients.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)

Also read: Delhi’s cumulative death rate doesn’t give you the full picture of the second wave. Here’s why

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  1. Modi himself did not take two key steps : (1) get together with the opposition and Election Commission and request a postponement of elections (2) prevent the astrologers from bringing the Kumbh forward by an year.

    Now what is the point of bullying the small fry and demoralising them ? It is just a pretence.

    • Opposition was/is never interested in co-operation. The central idea of opposition is what Rajiv Gandhi had said: ” I would have rather India destroyed than become non-secular”.

      So the opposition behavior particularly of Congress, TMC, RJD, SP, DMK, NCP are result of that thinking. So it is waste of time for seek co-operation from them. It is good that civil servants are taken to task. Until now during long Congress rule they have been eating beacon. Now they have to pay price.

      • “Until now during long Congress rule they have been eating beacon.”

        Why would anyone eat beacon?

  2. That’s Called Passing The Responsibility, As Usual !! If it’s Good, Take Full Credit, Otherwise ….

  3. 1st of all he himself as the leader of this country what he hs done. Leaving the whole county in pain and agony doing rallies in other states, I don’t understand whether he is pm or election campaign agent of BJP. What ever time left in that without thinking of people only doing preaching.

    • So who do you want as PM your fellow Marathi like Sharad Pawar, Uddav Thakre or Mamata Benarjee or Rahul Gandhi ?

  4. Absolutely correct question, until something is highlighted no one bothers.
    Decisions n planing should b done actively n smartly so tat people will b saved.
    No bloody beds no bloody oxygen.
    Simply say corona loot money n make everyone miserable.
    Wat will people without money do just loose their loved ones.
    Need to b active n. Quick enough to take a proper decision.
    One says bloody lockdown one says bloody give 25k to each family.
    R thesw educated govt officials or just to make. Money out of crap corona.
    Poor people r suffering n one is bothered.
    Cm gets corona gets cured in within a week.
    Gets discharged.
    Drama, natak absolutely crap govt.
    I wish military rule comes to our country

  5. Caught napping for sure.
    Maybe the focus of the govt nd key officials was diverted due to the elections in many states nd activities like kumbh nd more.
    The covid situation for sure was at the backburner during this time.
    Surprisingly the so called experts couldn’t anticipate it coming.
    Nd the general public never seems to learn depending on the govt for everything.
    The response is surely delayed by a month or so.

    • Kumbh in uttarakhand. What the Govts. in Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kanataka & Punjab were doing. Further, health is a state subject. No state Govt. improved their medical infra in the last one year. They were studying Master degree in blaming Central Govt. & Modi.

      • It is high time you stop this paid propaganda of this government or you are just a blind follower whatever. You seem to suggest that in a country of 1.3 bn, we donot have anyone who is better than this megalomaniac?

        • Yes. We have better ones Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Akhilesh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mamata Banerjee. Yes we have plenty of samples that a Secu kuttes like you like.

  6. Scientists should be given some flak as well.
    There was a BHU paper written by Indian scientists in Feb analysing why second wave will not strike India!
    Scientists who wrote the paper should go back to the drawing board and understand where they went wrong in their studies. Does not reflect well on our scientist community if they don’t do a thorough job.

    PM and bureaucrats can only act in time if they get scientific inputs from scientists.

  7. After the way Assam NRC Chief bureaucrat Pratyek Hajela hounded , bureaucrats are all shying away from taking decisions. If they had had been active and if the 2nd wave did not take off, then the same bureaucrats would have been hounded for false alarm. The situation of bureaucrats staying far from decisions will not change but get worse on the coming days.

  8. Yah ,it seems you know better than that of other, come forward and give a big hand, because it,s the duty for all of us to help the country in this situation.But
    It is easy to say with a big mouth, but doing is hard ,my friend.

  9. See what is coming out side rallies , Melas..and then putting everything on officers.. I am sure no officer had will or guts to ask bjp got to stop elections and postpone it.

  10. What is the use of PM himself if all the work has to be done by secretaries.

    Is it not his and only his responsibility to ORDER THEM to prepare for second wake.
    What good is a team without a leader.

    He was just busy with his rallies. Country will not pardon him this time. No more suffering.

  11. Berating bureaucrats in public or retiring them for non performance is just PR. The leader selected his bureaucrats, so he can’t blame his team. The buck stops with the PM.

  12. The mass leader needs to take some accountability.
    Did he ask these bureaucrats for their opinion before giving go ahead to Kumbh mela or election campaigns ?

  13. PM Modi and all political party leaders should apologize for conducting mega election rallies. Passing the buck won’t help the situation

  14. The bureaucrats did not take into account the PM sponsored super spreader events like Maha Kumbh & Modi’s massive election rallys

  15. Now that a lot of flak is pouring in, efforts are being to shift the blame to others. Find a scapegoat and hang him. The real actors of this monumental blunder are the “Great Indian duo” who cares none and are throwing the Citizens to the pandemic. No institutions worth its salt has the temerity to stop them. In short, the Citizens have let loose proverbial Frankenstein. Period.

  16. It is a combination of Government inefficiency ( Central and State level) and complacency by citizens. When wave 2 was rampant all over world how come we can be spared. The main stream media was also interested covering election, waze case etc and never questioned Government for preparation of upcoming Tsunami. We can fight against covid only through self discipline.

  17. Too much bureaucracy, or too less bureaucracy, or too indifferent bureaucracy?
    On one hand we would have elections, melas and general fatigue on lockdowns, and lower COVID numbers drawing complacency.
    On the other hand, do we have processes to empower bureaucrats to take lead and execute – what at the incentives for performance and what are the frights of non-performance, and how is performance measured?

  18. The person who deserves to receive the most of flak is our Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. He had the effrontery to pronounce that not all but only those who need will get vaccine. This is the worst kind of statement to be made by the Health Minister of the nation. He needs to be pulled up for his indiscretion.

    • Irrational megalomaniac.

      Fellow was busy sharpening aggressive religious bigotry through kumbh melas, conducting laughable mimicry in Bengal elections and UP gram panchayats, when even a fool would advise you to stay indoors.

      Everyone else is responsible for whatever goes wrong and this cartoon claims credit even if monsoon arrives on time.

      • This is typical of Nehru family with idea: ” I would rather have India destroyed than become non-secular”

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