Karnataka’s Covid-19 task force finally gets its act together

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/karnatakas-covid-19-task-force-finally-gets-its-act-together/articleshow/75090005.cms

BENGALURU: After days of conflicting statements on positive cases, lack of coordination and duelling egos,
Karnataka’s Covid-19 Task Force is working as one unit again.

Stability returned to the team of ministers after BS Yediyurappa appointed S Suresh Kumar as the sole government spokesperson for briefing the media and public on Covid-19 developments last week.

Before that, both health minister B Sriramulu and medical education minister K Sudhakar used to share updates on cases and strategy that didn’t match, causing confusion about the state government’s approach for tackling coronavirus. Now, Yediyurappa, Sriramulu, Sudhakar, Suresh Kumar, who is the education minister, and other cabinet members appear to be on the same page.

“There’s no mix-up or confusion now; everyone is working in tandem,” a senior BJP functionary said, while admitting that differences among senior ministers remain unresolved.

The differences, result of a power struggle between ministers, became a major headache for Yediyurappa when the viral outbreak began. Containing tensions among these ministers became almost a second front of the state government’s Covid-19 battle.

Deputy chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan, home minister Basavaraj Bommai, Sriramulu and Sudhakar, all part of the task force, have not been on friendly terms, according to BJP functionaries. Their reported bid to outdo the other led to contradictory information and messages flowing from the government. For instance, different ministers provided different figures on infections at press conferences.

Technically, the Covid-19 crisis falls within the ambit of Sriramulu’s health ministry. But Ashwath Narayan and Sudhakar, who are doctors, began overshadowing Sriramulu, and their difference of opinion added to the bitterness, the functionaries said.

Though these problems still remain, the task force is functioning smoothly now as the chief minister has made it clear that only Suresh Kumar will brief the media.

At a meeting of the task force on Thursday evening, suggestions were sought to improve coordination between ministers, officials and departments overseeing Bengaluru Urban, one of the worst-affected districts in Karnataka.

Ashwath Narayan reportedly said that a bigger, more coordinated effort was required to contain the spread in Bengaluru. “We need a systematic approach and the ministers agree too. We have decided to appoint a dedicated person to oversee the enforcement of the lockdown in Bengaluru city,” he said, according to officials aware of the discussions in the meeting.

While BBMP commissioner BH Anil Kumar is in charge of the Covid-19 response in the city, enforcement of the lockdown is the job of police commissioner Bhaskar Rao. Additional chief secretary Jawaid Akhtar and health commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey are also involved in the efforts.

“When such a vast city is under lockdown, obviously it will not be effective as there is no coordination between departments,” said a member of the task force, adding every department head has the rank of additional chief secretary, so ego clashes were bound to happen.

There is speculation that additional chief secretary for home department Rajneesh Goel, who previously served as the BBMP commissioner, will be made the Bengaluru in-charge to improve better coordination.

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