The PCS officers had organised a meeting on July 3 to protest against the Vigilance Bureau action and arrest of a fellow PCS officer, Tarsem Chand, who was posted as RTA, Faridkot. They had condemned the action and demanded VB to take corrective steps.
It all began with Ludhiana ADC Amarjit Bains testing positive three days after the meeting. By Wednesday evening, the names of 11 PCS officers had been confirmed by the government sources to have tested positive.
Also, reports of at least eight officers are awaited and the rest are preparing to get themselves tested. Sources said most of the officers are asymptomatic.
From Ludhiana, ADC (General) Amarjeet Singh Bains, SDM (Khanna) Sandeep Singh and ADC (Jagraon) Neeru Katyal Gupta have tested positive.
Others in the list include, Municipal Commissioner (Hoshiarpur) Balbir Raj, SDM (Hoshiarpur) Amit Mahajan, SDM (Phagwara) Pavitter Singh, SDM (Mohali) Jagdeep Singh, SDM (Fatehgarh Sahib) Dipankar Garg. Rajiv Gupta, posted as Director Employment, Harjeet Sandhu, posted as Secretary, State Transport Authority, Chandigarh, SDM (Ropar) Gurwinder Johal have also tested positive.
Panic has gripped the bureaucracy in the state as the government has been holding its meetings with several officers from different departments. The officers were had held the Chandigarh meeting despite the government advisory against large meetings.
While most of them, who have tested positive were seen wearing masks in the meeting, the PCS officers were not maintaining social distancing.
Punjab Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan tweeted wishing speedy recovery to employees. She wrote: “We wish speedy recovery to the employees who have tested positive and urge all to exercise necessary precautions in the discharge of their duties, especially wearing of masks in closed/crowded spaces.”
Ludhiana admin hit hard
With three PCS officers in Ludhiana testing positive, the district administration has appealed to appeal to people to avoid rushing to offices with ‘manual applications’ for work.
Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner (DC) Varinder Kumar Sharma, who is in quarantine himself, said: “Public dealing jobs are always at high risk. We all need to reduce the number of chairs in our offices. On an average, 150 manual applications are coming to me on a daily basis. People are coming from far off villages to get their work done manually. Hence, we appeal to people to get maximum work done online. It is not just about our inter-departmental meetings, but also the large scale public dealing in the offices of every officer. Our meetings are going to happen online now onwards. “
When ACP (Ludhiana North) Anil Kohli had tested positive in April, meetings had gone online. The then DC Pardeep Agarwal, Commissioner of Police Rakesh Aggarwal and many other officials had got themselves tested and had also quarantined themselves.
But as Unlock 1.0 began from June 1 onwards, things started opening up again.
Meanwhile, other officers who have also been instructed to put themselves under quarantine are Civil Surgeon Dr Rajesh Bagga, RTA Damanjit Singh, Joint Commissioners, Municipal Corporation, Swati Tiwana and Kulpreet Singh, Executive Officer, GLADA, Sonam Chaudhary, District Revenue Officer Joginder Singh, SDO, GLADA, Harpreet Sekhon.
Apart from them SDM (East) and SDM (West), and Additional Commissioner Administrator (ACA), GLADA, have also been asked to observer quarantine, along with district public relations officer and his staff.
With this, top officials of almost all the departments of Ludhiana have been put under quarantine, thus affecting the day-to-day functioning. Forty more primary contacts of these officers have also been quarantined and are being tested.
Other districts hit
In other districts too, the situation is not encouraging, apart from PCS officers, other functionaries too have been contracting the virus in the last few days.
A judge in district courts in Jalandhar has tested positive forcing his staff to be quarantined.
In Bathinda, a sessions judge, who hails from Chandigarh, has tested positive and is being treated at a UT hospital.
The Sangrur Civil Surgeon, Dr Raj Kumar, has been admitted to ICU of Rajindra Medical College and Hospital, Patiala after he complained of fever and breathlessness. His RT-PCR test report came back positive on Wednesday.
Dr G B Singh, Civil Surgeon, Barnala has been given additional charge of Sangrur for the time being. Sangrur DC Ramvir said, “Two epidemiologists who were in contact with civil surgeon have tested negative while his family and immediate staff has been quarantined.”
A tehsildar of Balachaur in Nawanshahr had tested positive and his office was sealed on Tuesday.
Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, nodal officer for Covid-19 in the state, said, “So far 53 health workers have been tested positive throughout the state, these include ward attendants, nurses, ASHA workers and even doctors. So far there is no causality among these workers.”
Protests continue despite Sec 144
Meanwhile after the Unlock began, dharnas and protests have been happening in the cities like normal days despite the fact that Section 144 being imposed in the state.
On Wednesday, CPI organised at Ludhiana’s Punjabi Bhawan. SAD rebel Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s programme on Tuesday had a gathering of over 150 persons at a small hall in Ludhiana. Akali Dal had also staged district-level dharnas on Tuesday, while on Sunday, a programme was organised by Punjab government at Rabbon Uchi village in which Punjab Health Minister Balbir Sidhu addressed a gathering of over 150 persons.
He had told The Indian Express, “Gathering of around 100-150 persons was in open area and we maintained social distance. After all, now we all need to learn to live with corona.”
About protests being organised, Ludhiana DC said: “I will ask Commissioner Ludhiana to get strict enforcement of section 144.”
Meanwhile, state officers remained tight lipped on politicians attending public functions.
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