‘Constitution of another panel creating more confusion’
DIMAPUR, MAY 28: The Naga People’s Front (NPF) has questioned the logic behind the constitution of an “advisory panel of experts” by the Government of Nagaland to “make expert opinion” on COVID-19 to the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and State Executive Council (SEC) when various committees and groups had already been set up at the State level on COVID-19.
“It is of the considered opinion that this constitution of an advisory panel of experts was unnecessary, clandestine and perhaps dubious in procedure. The State Government has to come clean on this without delay in the interest of the public”, said a statement issued by NPF Legislature Party Spokesperson Imkong L Imchen.
The NPFLP reminded that the State already has a High-Powered Committee (HPC) consisting of 6 members, out of which 5 are legislators including the Chief Minister and Chairman, deputy CM as Co-Chairman and Chief Secretary as Member Secretary. The HPC is assisted by a number of officials pooled from various Government Departments. The decision to constitute the HPC was taken by the Cabinet to decide on policy matters relating to COVID-19, including supervision of the State War Room.
Wondering what was the reason for constituting an advisory panel of 3 experts, the NPFLP Spokesperson asked, “Was any advertisement floated and candidates shortlisted? What process was followed for selection of the experts? What were the terms of reference? Was it an arbitrary decision of any individual, a selected few or was a Committee set up? Where did the final approval come from? The HPC or the Chief Minister?”
Citing Point No.1 of the terms of the “cropped notification concealing the terms of reference” as tweeted by the Government Spokesperson and Advisor to the Government, which stated “the services of the Advisory panel of Experts shall be utilized by the SDMA/SEC for a period of one year through virtual consultation or any other means of communication”, Imkong L Imchen asked, “How will this benefit the Health Care Workers (HCWs) and Frontline Workers (FLWs) working at the ground level? Will these experts have any idea about the ground reality here in the State? Are they well versed in the demographic, socio-economic, patient demographic aspects of the State? Has the State Government considered what to do if there are divergent and differing opinions amongst these three experts? Whose view will the State Government choose?”
On remuneration/payment for the services of the experts, what are the terms, it asked.
Reminding that the Finance Department on May 6, 2021 has already notified pro-rata cuts of 20% on various items under Non-Development from the Budget Estimates 2021-22 in respect of travel expenses, office expenses, motor vehicles and maintenance, the NPFLP also recalled that the Chief Minister in his letter to the Confederation of Indian Industries on April 28, 2021 had sought donations citing “the State’s finances were already stretched”.
“Therefore, how much fund has the State Government spent till date and for what purposes? Which are the areas it has been allotted and how much has been utilized from out of the pro-rata cut of 20% and what is the urgent necessity of the so-called expert panel, only to be added to the financial burden of the State? it asked.
“Therefore, how much fund has the State Government spent till date and for what purposes? Which are the areas it has been allotted and how much has been utilized from out of the pro-rata cut of 20% and what is the urgent necessity of the so-called expert panel, only to be added to the financial burden of the State?” it asked.
Imkong also reminded that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier constituted 11 Empowered Groups, under the Disaster Management Act 2005, at the national level for planning and ensuring implementation of COVID-19 response activities and the State Government had designated Nodal Officers from the State to each of the 11 Empowered Groups constituted by the MHA.
The Government of Nagaland had also reconstituted a Special Advisory Group comprising of 10 members to monitor and ensure readiness of the State in case of eventuality amid the Coronavirus threat, he said.
In light of this, the NPF leader questioned the State Government and the Chief Minister on “the logic of appointing a new panel of experts despite those officials who have already been appointed/designated to various committees and groups at the State level and in line with the Government of India/s groups.
“Are these newly appointed experts going to formulate any new strategies and approaches other than that which the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other official authorities such as the ICMR, NEGVAC and the Empowered Groups are formulating? If yes, then what will those approaches be? If no, then the State Government does not have faith on its own State Officials who have already been appointed/designated? Or is the HPC unable to take decisions on its own despite the advisories, guidelines and orders from the GoI?” he asked.
Imkong further asked if the move to appoint the advisory panel of experts was taken with good intention to help the State in its fight against GOVID-19 and through proper procedure, “then why was this kept secret from the public when most likely public funds will be used to pay for these services when, by the Chief Minister’s own admissions, the State’s finances are stretched?
“Why is only selective, half-information being released to the public by the ruling dispensation which always goes into political defence mode?” it asked.
The NPF leader also termed the Government Spokesperson’s tweet as “misleading”, as he had claimed that the HPC is advised by the expert panel. “But upon scrutinization of the half cropped available notification, it is found that the panel has been constituted to “make expert opinion on various aspect of emergency response of COVID-19 to the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and State Executive Council (SEC), Nagaland.” There is absolutely no mention whatsoever of advising the HPC.
“Given this fact, does this mean that the Chief Secretary by virtue of his posts in the HPC, SDMA and the SEC will be the one conveying the advice of these experts to the HPC? Constitution of another panel seems to be creating more confusion and multiplicity in the decision making process besides added financial burden,” he stated.
The NPF suggested that rather than confusing itself, the State Government should be taking much needed decisions like declaring the Power Department field staff as frontline workers at par since Power supply is crucial to running of hospitals, ICUs, oxygen concentrators, etc. “It is these brave unsung heroes who work throughout the night in blistering as well as inclement weather risking their lives to ensure that electricity is provided”, he added.
(Page News Service)