Since Gujarat was grappled in the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, the bureaucrats had been seemingly running the show. While Amdavad Municipal Corporation Commissioner Vijay Nehra was leading from the front with giving regular updates via social media, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Dr Jayanti Ravi was addressing the media to give status updates.
However, on Tuesday, a major reshuffle took place where Pankaj Kumar, ACS (Revenue) was made overall in-charge of the COVID-19 related action to be taken by the Health and Family Welfare Department.
Who is Dr Jayanti S Ravi?
Dr Jayanti S Ravi is a scientist with a master’s degree in nuclear physics from University of Madras. The 1991 Gujarat cadre IAS officer was the District Collector of Godhra when the 2002 carnage took place. On 27 February 2002, 58 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were set on fire inside a train compartment by a Muslim mob in Godhra. Following the carnage, widespread communal riots took place in Gujarat. In July 2002, Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat has transferred her out of Godhra. Back then, she had won accolades in media for the effective handling of the communal tension.
In August 2004, she was handpicked by Congress President and UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi and was deputed to the National Advisory Council which was headed by Sonia Gandhi. She was deputed at the UPA-led NAC till July 2007, i.e. for three years.
National Advisory Council
The UPA set up the National Advisory Council (NAC) to advise the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and was chaired by Sonia Gandhi for much of the UPA’s tenure. 10, Janpath sneakily tried to be the authoritative figure by creating the farce called the NAC. The NAC was formed on 4th June 2004, soon after Dr Singh took oath, to advice the PM on. Sonia Gandhi served as its chairperson. Many believed that the NAC was the unofficial Prime Minister’s Office. The NAC also drafted the controversial Communal Violence Bill, officially referred to as the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, would have proved to be one of the most disastrous laws if it were to be enacted. It assumed that only religious or linguistic minorities and people from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes could be the victims of communal violence conveniently ignoring all ground realities.
In April, 2020, Gujarat Health Commissioner Jai Prakash Shivahare raised concerns over the use of an application DrTecho to access data of COVID-19 patients. As per a report by Ahmedabad Mirror, Ravi had been promoting this app in her media briefings for registration of private doctors and COVID-19 patients. In his letter to state government, Shivhare said that an MOU with the Gujarat government needs to be in place to let the company access private and confidential data of patients.
The app has been in use by the health department since two years now. It was installed on the phones of ASHA workers to collect data in villages. DrTecho was supplied by a Gandhinagar based tech firm Argusoft.
Gandhinagar-based Argusoft is owned by Ravi Gopalan. He is Dr Jayanti Ravi’s husband. The collection of COVID-19 patients’ data was not in scope of DrTecho and to include that, an MOU to that effect would be needed with the state government. The fact that Dr Jayanti Ravi was monitoring and strategising the control of coronavirus pandemic in the state as Principal Health Secretary, raised eyebrows. It is also unclear whether any tender was issued for the same two years back.
Seasoned bureaucrats brought in
After the coronavirus condition in Gujarat seemed to be going out of hand, seasoned senior bureaucrats were brought in to take charge of the situation. As of 7 May 2020, Gujarat has clocked in 6,625 coronavirus positive cases, of which over 4,500 are from Ahmedabad alone. The state has seen 1,500 recoveries and almost 400 deaths.
Pankaj Kumar, IAS, who is the ACS (Revenue) will now be given the charge of coronavirus strategy in Gujarat. In a way, Dr Jayanti Ravi will now be overshadowed by Kumar. Former Municipal Commissioner, Mukesh Kumar, who is currently heading Gujarat Maritime Board, has been made in-charge Commissioner of Ahmedabad after Ahmedabad Commissioner went into 14-day isolation after reportedly coming in contact with COVID-19 positive person. And ACS (Environment), Rajiv Gupta, will now be overlooking the coronavirus pandemic in Ahmedabad, the worst affected city in Gujarat.