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Posted at: Oct 13, 2017, 1:13 AM; last updated: Oct 13, 2017, 1:13 AM (IST)

Delayed projects reason for Health Secretary’s exit?

‘Challenge multiplied’

  • Sources said delayed execution of several big ticket health infrastructure projects, including 10 new AIIMS-like institutions announced in the Union Budgets, could have triggered the replacement of Secretary CK Mishra
  • Considering the PMO is constantly monitoring government promises, the challenge multiplied
  • “Delivery of these projects is crucial and the pace of delivery needs a boost. That’s always a priority,” a Health Ministry source said

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 12

With Health Ministry officials still grappling with the reasons behind Secretary CK Mishra’s sudden exit, a section privy to the goings on felt delayed health infrastructure projects could have triggered the replacement of a high profile, approachable and friendly Mishra, who brought fillip to the maternal and child health plan.

Known for taking joint secretaries along, Mishra spent his last day in Health Ministry today and will join as Environment Secretary soon. Mishra, the 1983 Bihar-cadre IAS officer, has for long been known for his closeness to Health Minister JP Nadda. Nadda and Mishra went to the same school in Bihar.

Mishra’s departure order last night came as a shock to most ministry officers who privately said they didn’t know what happened.

There were, however, some murmurs today about consternation in the ministry over delayed execution of several big ticket health infrastructure projects, including 10 new AIIMS-like institutions announced in the Union Budgets starting 2014 since the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power. Considering the PMO is constantly monitoring government promises, the challenge multiplied. Ministry sources said “the progress of AIIMS-like institutions was found to be satisfactory and could do with more pace”.

Foundation stones have so far been laid for the construction of the following AIIMS-like institutions — Mangalgiri in Andhra Pradesh, Nagpur in Maharashtra, Kalyan in Bengal, Bathinda in Punjab and Bilaspur in Himachal.

“Delivery of these projects is crucial and the pace of delivery needs a boost. That’s always a priority,” a Health Ministry source said. There is also some delay in the ongoing government scheme to upgrade state medical colleges with super specialty blocks. Further, in Delhi, the new emergency and super specialty block of Safdarjung Hospital stands constructed but hasn’t become operational due to delays in procurement of equipment.

Sources said overcoming administrative challenges to realize health infrastructure goals was an important part of Union Health Secretary’s profile.

That said, Mishra had acquired the reputation of being a driver of key projects on maternal and child health. Under him, rules were relaxed to boost domestic medical devices and drug sector and several new child vaccines were added to the immunisation basket to improve India’s sluggish child immunisation coverage under Mission Indradhanush. Preeti Sudan, former Secretary, Food will replace Mishra. She won’t join until Monday as she is currently in Rome and returns only this weekend.

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