Days after returning to power in Bhopal, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government on Wednesday removed Health Commissioner Prateek Hajela from his post for “showing grave negligence towards his duties” at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As NRC coordinator for Assam, Hajela had also earned the ire of the BJP and the party-led government there. An IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, he was hounded for not backing Assam and the Centre’s petitions in the Supreme Court last year for re-verification of a sample of names included in the draft NRC — the final NRC list was subsequently rejected by Assam. Hajela was transferred to Madhya Pradesh on the directions of the Supreme Court last October.
On Wednesday, after addressing a meeting to review the state’s preparedness to meet the COVID-19 threat, Chief Minister Chouhan ordered the removal of Hajela.
Principal Secretary Faiz Ahmed Kidwai was given charge of Health Commissioner in addition to his current responsibilities.
The government did not specify why Hajela was suddenly transferred in the midst of the crisis. “The CM has immediately removed Health Commissioner for showing grave negligence towards his duties,’’ an official release stated. It quoted the Chief Minister as saying “no negligent officer will be spared”.
Hajela did not return calls for comment. Ever since his transfer to Madhya Pradesh, he had been keeping a low profile.
His transfer coincides with a surge in positive coronavirus cases from Indore. Of the 86 positive cases and six deaths in the state, Indore accounts for 63 cases and three deaths.
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