A day after the Central team’s visit to Mumbai and its observations on the rising COVID-19 cases inside containment zones in the city, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday transferred Mumbai civic commissioner Praveen Pardeshi.
Thackeray on Friday evening transferred the high-profile bureaucrat as additional chief secretary to the Urban Development department. Iqbal Singh Chahal, who was holding the Urban Development secretary’s post, has succeeded Pardeshi as Mumbai’s new civic chief.
At the epicentre of the pandemic, the city has so far reported 12,142 cases and 462 deaths.
On Thursday, a Central team, headed by Joint Secretary (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) Lav Agarwal had visited Mumbai for an on-spot assessment. Sources said the Central team had red-flagged a rise in cases in the city’s containment zones.
Pardeshi, a 1985-batch IAS officer, took over as the Mumbai civic chief on May 11, last year from Ajoy Mehta (who became the chief secretary) after serving almost five years as the additional chief secretary to former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
In that post, Pardeshi was seen as the most powerful bureaucrat in Mantralaya. After taking over the reins of the state last November, Thackeray had continued with Pardeshi as the civic chief.
With a three-party coalition, headed by a first-time CM in power, the chief secretary’s office became the main pivot of government functioning. Sources in Mantralaya said Mehta’s office and Pardeshi had disagreements over dealing with the pandemic.
When asked, Mehta said: “There were no coordination issues. The BMC is an autonomous body.” Pardeshi was unavailable for comment.
Besides Pardeshi, Thackeray on Friday also transferred two of the four additional municipal commissioners. Jaishree Bhoj, who was only recently appointed to the post, was transferred to Maharashtra Small Scale Industries Development Corporation, while Abbasaheb Jarhad was appointed as secretary, Relief and Rehabilitation department.
While former managing director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation, Ashwini Bhide, has been appointed in Bhoj’s position, former Thane civic commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal will take over from Jarhad.
After differences between the state public health department and the BMC health machinery over contact tracing, Thackeray had last month deputed Bhide on a special assignment to the BMC.
“She has now been assigned a full-time post. Her posting and even Jaiswal’s further confirms Mehta’s stamp on the transfers,” said a source.
Chahal took over as the commissioner on Friday evening, reaching the BMC headquarters around 7.30 pm. A 1989-batch officer, he has his task cut out. “He has had no previous stint with the Mumbai civic body. It will be a challenge to take over midway through the crisis,” a senior bureaucrat said.
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