Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain Wednesday wrote to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla alleging that officers in the state government were being “pressured” by the Ministry of Home Affairs to not increase testing. The letter comes a day after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, after a meeting with Jain, announced that Delhi would double testing to 40,000 per day in light of an increase in Covid cases.
The city, which saw new cases per day dip to around 1,000 a couple of weeks ago, has seen more than 1,400 cases for five days now. On Thursday, 1,840 cases were reported.
The MHA spokesperson called the allegations “false and baseless” and said it was after the “intervention of the Union Home Minister that daily tests in Delhi, which were averaging around 4,000 per day till mid-June, have gone up to around 18-20,000 per day in a calibrated manner.”
In Delhi, which is not a full state but has an elected state government, the power to post and transfer officials falls with the MHA through the L-G.
In the letter, Jain wrote, “Since the time corona has affected Delhi, the state government has faced it alongside the union government, but I was shocked when I was told by some officers they are being pressured by the MHA to not increase testing in Delhi.”
Jain also said he was surprised that the MHA was interfering with work being undertaken by the Delhi government: “There is an elected government in Delhi which is capable of taking decisions… Why is the government being stopped from increasing testing? Across the world, high rate of testing is being seen as a good policy decision. Delhi has succeeded in controlling corona using this strategy. Why is Delhi being stopped from increasing the number of tests from 20,000 to 40,000? Why are officers being pressurised unconstitutionally and illegally?”
Jain also referred to a note prepared by the principal secretary (health) (Delhi government) regarding testing protocol, and said this was done in a secretive manner and under pressure from the ministry.
The MHA spokesperson tweeted that the note being referred to has only “proposed that the views of an Expert Committee headed by Dr V K Paul may be taken on the proposed enhancement in testing in Delhi, for technical guidance on various issues such as mix of RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen, categories of geographical areas and demographics, etc.”
Over the past few months, Delhi and the Centre have sparred over several issues, including protocol for home isolation, reopening hotels and markets and testing protocol. AAP has also regularly attacked the Centre, alleging it had failed to control the spread of the virus in states governed by BJP.
AAP MLA Raghav Chadha said: “Delhi Chief Minister… decided to increase the number of tests as a precautionary measure… More testing and isolation are key to fight against this pandemic… is it not unconstitutional to put psychological pressure on the officials…?”
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs also discussed handling of the pandemic in Delhi, which was attended by senior government officers, including the Chief Secretary Vijay Dev.
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