The upper echelons of India’s bureaucracy face a major workforce challenge, with key officials in central government departments and ministries unwell following the surge in coronavirus infections.
Some of those officials were dealing with critical health issues, according to several officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The second wave affected all strata of society in the country, including the bureaucracy. Typically, one in two public servants is either affected by the infection or has a family member affected, ”said one of the officials mentioned above.
The explosion of cases is straining the healthcare system, requiring not only more frontline workers, but also experienced administrators. The staffing challenge comes at a time when authorities strive to ensure the provision of essential services and facilities such as hospital beds, intensive care units, vaccines, oxygen and fans.
The result: precise prioritization of work. “Basic and routine functions are not affected because file movement protocols are in place. Even public servants who are not feeling well erase the files at home. However, new ideas and proposals will have to wait unless they aim to improve the current situation, ”a second official said on condition of anonymity.
Two senior health ministry officials are down with covid, while family members of another senior official involved in the vaccination program have tested positive. Some members of an interdepartmental group monitoring the supply of essential medical supplies are infected.
A large number of tax officers and field staff have contracted covid. In the industry department, many senior executives fell ill.
Since April 16, at least four Union ministers – Prakash Javadekar, Ramesh Pokhriyal, Kiren Rijiju and Jitendra Singh – have tweeted that they are covid positive.
“No one is withholding the files, although the workload has temporarily increased,” said the second official cited above. Officials can access the files in the National Informatics Center’s eOffice platform from their personal computers, although some files must be physical. official explained.
“We are facing a problem as almost all of the co-secretaries in our ministry have tested positive. While we are doing our best to manage, with agents intervening by video conference, the second wave has not been kind, ”said a senior official at a key infrastructure ministry.
There was no formal response before press time to questions e-mailed Thursday to spokespersons for the ministries of finance, civil aviation, road transport and highways, trade and commerce. industry, as well as queries emailed to the Department of Health and Family on Friday. Questions emailed to the secretary’s office, the personnel and training department and the spokesperson on Friday went unanswered.
Asit Ranjan Mishra, Neetu Chandra Sharma and Prashant K. Nanda contributed to this story.