As appointments of bureaucrats serving in the Delhi government continue to be a bone of contention between the AAP government and the office of the Lieutenant Governor, the discord appears to be manifesting itself in the Delhi government’s department of health and family welfare.
Minutes of at least four meetings held by Health Minister Satyendar Jain in October indicated that health secretary Chandrakar Bharti did not attend them. Bharti, an AGMUT-cadre IAS officer serving as environment secretary, was given the additional charge of health secretary by Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on August 30. He replaced Tarun Seem, a non-IAS officer, who was appointed to the top health department post by the AAP government.
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While sources in the Delhi government said that Bharti had a “responsibility towards the people of Delhi” and should attend the meetings, the IAS officer claimed that he had not received notices for many such meetings.
Minutes of one such meeting, held on Wednesday, October 10 recorded, “It was informed that secretary (health and FW) could not attend the meeting as he is busy in discussion with principal secretary (law), engineer-in-chief (PWD) is on leave and CPM (health), PWD is absent.” While 14 senior government officials, including PWD secretary Ashwani Kumar and special secretary, health, Rashmi Krishnan, were present during this meeting, Bharti’s name did not feature in the attendance list.
While minutes of the October 19 meeting noted that Bharti was ‘in a discussion with principal secretary (law)’ at the time of the meeting, no reasons for his absence during the other meetings were recorded.
Bharti was also absent for another meeting held on October 10. The attendance sheet of the meeting showed that 10 senior health department officers attended the meeting. The attendance sheet of a review meeting of the AYUSH (health department), held by Jain on October 3, showed that Bharti did not attend the meeting. Another review meeting of the director general of health services, held by Jain on October 10, was attended by seven health department officials, but Bharti remained absent.
A senior government functionary, who did not wish to be named, said, “The health secretary has a responsibility towards the people of Delhi. There are duties he is bound by on oath. He should attend the meetings of his department”.
But Bharti told The Indian Express, “There are many meetings for which I don’t receive notices. In case of an overlap of two meetings, I always ensure that the senior-most special secretary attends the meeting. I might be on leave or engaged in inspection during that time. It never goes unrepresented. These things should not be person-specific. It should be the system that should be held supreme. We are all working towards good governance and it is the output and the outcome that should matter.”
Two weeks before Bharti took over as the health secretary, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had requested the Lt Governor to allow Seem to continue in the position, but Jung had overruled the AAP government’s request.
Days before that, Sisodia had sought action against Bharti over the delay in issuing the draft notification banning Chinese manjha in the national capital.