Hyderabad: Ever since Telangana reported the first COVID-19 case early last month, a battery of senior bureaucrats have been working overtime behind the scenes to evolve the state’s strategy to tackle the situation.
Leading the team of officials is Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, the topmost bureaucrat in the state.
Though it is Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao or Health Minister Eatala Rajender, who have been briefing the media and making key announcements with regard to handling of the pandemic, it is Somesh Kumar who is doing the backroom work with some other officials.
Assisting Somesh Kumar in the task are said to be senior officials in Chief Minister’s Office including Principal Secretary S. Narsing Rao, Chief Advisor Rajiv Sharma, who had served as the first chief secretary of Telangana, Principal Secretary (Health) A. Santhi Kumari and Director General of Police Mahender Reddy.
For more than a month, a round-the-clock command and control centre has been functioning from the office of the Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare to handle the coronavirus crisis.
Headed by the Health Minister, the centre is monitoring the situation round the clock.
The Chief Secretary is also part of this centre. The minister and the top bureaucrat conduct video conference with district collectors and health officials and give them necessary instructions.
That the Chief Secretary is playing the key role in crisis management was evident when he visited some containment clusters created in those areas of Hyderabad which reported more number of positive cases.
Somesh Kumar along with the police chief visited containment clusters and appealed to the people to voluntarily support the government in curtailing and combating COVID -19.
“Areas where positive cases were found are being demarcated as containment clusters and cordoned off so that people from these areas don’t go out and no outsider enters these areas. The idea is to contain the virus from spreading,” he told media persons.
The team of officials had done well in devising appropriate strategies to trace and track the foreign returnees and their contacts and put over 25,000 people under quarantine.
While the number of cases in this phase was around 100, the second phase proved challenging for authorities. This phase began towards March end as many of those who had attended Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi and their family members and contacts tested positive.
Though Telangana has so far reported 14 deaths and the number of positive cases mounted to 503, but the state government claimed that the graph was showing a downward trend for the last couple of days and it was confident that all those under treatment now would recover and discharge by April 24.
Somesh Kumar is known to be Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao’s ‘Man Friday’ in the government and bureaucratic circles. This is said to be the reason why KCR ignored some seniors to appoint him as the chief secretary in January.
As KCR has another four years of his term left, he was keen to have an officer with four more years of services so that the government can implement its welfare and development schemes without any hassles.
The IAS officer, who was Commissioner of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) at the formation of Telangana state, was allotted to residuary state of Andhra Pradesh cadre by the Centre.
However, Somesh approached the High Court and the Central Administrative Tribunal and continued in Telangana.
KCR was impressed with the functioning of Somesh and handed him several key portfolios during the last six years. He headed the department of Excise and Commercial Taxes and was later promoted as Special Chief Secretary for Revenue.
A native of Bihar, Somesh Kumar is a 1989 batch IAS officer. He will hold the office of chief secretary till December 2023.