(This story originally appeared in on Jul 19, 2020)BENGALURU: From being a role model in Covid-19 management to a dreaded city where patients are desperately waiting for ambulances and hospital beds, Bengaluru has been caught flat-footed due to lack of coordination among government agencies and ministers.
The state government on Saturday replaced BBMP commissioner BH Anil Kumar with his predecessor N Manjunath Prasad in a bid to fix the mess. STOI examines the main reasons behind the faltering outbreak response.
Killer complacency: At a time when Covid cases were spiking in other cities, Bengaluru had only 1,700 cases by June 25, but in mid-July, it’s all set to touch the 30,000 mark. The civic agency did not learn lessons from other cities but became complacent. The lockdowns were not used effectively to ramp up health infrastructure and allied logistics.
Tech approach: While the initial battle was fought and won by deploying men on the ground who identified potential carriers and traced their primary and secondary contacts, in recent times, BBMP brass spent more time in the war room discussing data and turning a deaf ear to frontline health personnel. Ground staff were fatigued and not much was done to motivate them.
Lack of coordination: There was complete disconnect between BBMP and other government agencies on Covid containment. While the rift between BBMP commissioner and mayor was an open secret, the shadow-boxing between the commissioner and chief secretary made things worse. Further, the BBMP was not feeding realtime data and details in real time to the war room and containment strategies got derailed.
Procurement fiasco: While many corporators and some city ministers found it difficult to operate given the commissioner’s proximity to top political bosses, what backfired was the commissioner’s move to pay a daily rental of Rs 800 per bed to private suppliers who were given orders to provide infrastructure for the 10,100-bed Covid Care Centre (CCC) at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre. The government feared the issue would snowball into a Rs 200-crore scam and singe politicians. Though chief minister Yediyurappa averted some embarrassment, he was visibly angry with the commissioner.
Not in sync: While the government was against any extension of lockdown as it was taking a toll on the economy, the commissioner echoed experts on extending the lockdown for another week. Sources said the chief minister was reportedly furious at this approach.
Complaints from MLAs: There were several complaints from city MLAs stating that the commissioner was not clearing their files. Some big-ticket projects such as the high-density corridor and issue of TDRs were not being done as netas and vested interest groups wanted it. A senior minister felt his clout in BBMP was diminishing as the commissioner was not heeding his instructions.