With the Karnataka government appointing eight ministers to micromanage the COVID-19 pandemic in Bengaluru city, former minister Priyank Kharge has alleged step motherly treatment towards the rest of the state.
In an interview with TNM, Priyank said, “Everybody in the government is only concerned about Bengaluru, there are eight corona Ministers. How many ministers have gone to Bidar, Kalaburagi or Raichur? They have not bothered to take care about the rest of the state. Yes, Bengaluru is important-the population density is high, the number of people contracting the infection is high. But that does not mean you leave the rest of the state to die.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, the two-term minister and son of Congress stalwart and Member of Parliament Mallikarjun Kharge has been highlighting the lacunae of the government in his district since the onset of the pandemic on social and mainstream media.
Speaking about his home district— Kalaburagi, which incidentally saw the country’s first COVID-19 death, he said the government’s keenness to transfer officials with the interest of alleged corruption and lack of political will to manage the pandemic is the major problem.
Incidentally, the Kalaburagi City does not have a full-time civic body Commissioner for more than two weeks as he's being transferred. “I don’t know why the government, during a pandemic, wanted to transfer an officer from such an important post for a person who has not completed even one year and was doing a decent job?” he questioned.
“The government has institutionalized corruption regarding transfers in our district. I can understand if an official has corruption charges or not doing his duty. But what the government is doing with this arbitrary transfer is just adding to the chaos. During this crisis if you transfer these officers, it means that the new person has to learn the demography, geography and the specifics of the area from scratch. And with this, crucial time is lost.”
He mentioned the incident on April 28 when the government withdrew the transfer order of District Commissioner Sharat B within hours. “In less than four hours, due to the public sentiment he was restored. Give me one solid reason why the government is so keen on transfers during this time without any corruption or dereliction of duty?,” he said.
He added, “Then they changed the District Health Officer and that person could not take charge as the person who is currently in charge did not want to give up his position. So that order was also withdrawn. Even at taluk level, in my constituency, they have changed block level education officers and police officers. They were all doing good work under the tehsildar.”
Priyank said the same can be said about Wadi town which is a hotspot-the government changed the Chief Municipal Officer without notice and brought in a junior officer who has allegedly failed to rise to the challenge.
Kalaburagi had recently made news for the wrong reasons after a video went viral with a group of pigs seen walking on the corridor of the COVID-19 designated hospital in the city.
Commenting on this, he said, “I was also the district-in charge minister here, I have visited the hospital many times, I have never seen such many pigs. Standard operating procedures like maintaining the compound clean alone can’t be done by this administration.”
The Congress leader claimed that the present BJP government is busy profiteering from corruption in transfers and procurement of masks, sanitizers and PPE kits as alleged by his party colleagues and the Parliamentary Action Committee.
He said, “We have limited ourselves to testing 800-1000 per day, we have a backlog which means that sometimes people have to wait for 10 days to get their report back.Moreover, how much central government funds have come for this pandemic? Absolute zero. How many ventilators that were promised so far by PM Cares have come, you tell me?
He further alleged the district authorities are unresponsive. “For the last three days, I have been trying to reach the Deputy Commissioner to hand over the 550 beds arranged by Mr Kharge (Mallikarjun Kharge).”