Barak Valley equally important for Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna: "Regularly interact with all three DCs"
From sharing the factsheets around COVID19 to explaining the guidelines on microblogging platform Twitter, chief secretary of Assam, Kumar Sanjay Krishna has left no stone unturned to ensure people are aware and well informed. IAS officer of the 1985 Assam Meghalaya cadre, Kumar Sanjay Krishna is one of the top bureaucrats in the country.
He took charge as the chief secretary of Assam in December 2019 and within three months the country was hit by a pandemic, the outbreak of Coronavirus. Assam’s pro-people approach to battle the pandemic has been appreciated nationally and Krishna played a pivotal role in it. Instead of forcing a decision on the people, Krishna and his administration took the interactive route. A most recent example is when the chief secretary himself requested for feedback while curating the unlock guidelines in Guwahati. The deputy commissioner of Cachar, Keerthi Jalli, also did the same by inviting people representatives and intellectuals before deciding on lockdown.
Before taking charge as the chief secretary of Assam, Krishna has served in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Finance, and Agriculture in Delhi. He was also the Director, Tea Board in New York. In Assam, he was the deputy commissioner of Karmurp and Sonitpur before becoming the additional chief secretary.
Though he has throughout remained active and in public during the pandemic, the question arose if his efforts were limited to Bramhaputra Valley and if he was not devoting enough attention to the other side of Borail mountains, the Barak Valley.
In an exclusive interview with Barak Bulletin the chief secretary of Assam, Sanjay Kumar Krishna said, “I would emphatically differ. For me, as the Chief Secretary of Assam, all parts of the state are my favourite and no area, however physically distanced, is of lesser importance.”
In a deep-dive discussion on Barak Valley, the chief secretary shares that he regularly interacts with the deputy commissioners of Cachar, Hailakandi, and Karimganj.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview.
So far the administration has played an adaptive role and taken decisions depending on the situation, in your view, how alarming is the pandemic situation in Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj considering the infrastructure?
The pandemic situation is a major worry for the entire state. Though the number of positive cases is on the rise, it does not justify panic reactions. Both state and district machineries are putting the best foot forward to handle the situation to the best of our ability and I am sure, with the help of the citizens we shall overcome this crisis soon.
Which of the three districts in Barak Valley worry you the most?
All the three districts are a cause of worry, but given the larger population, Cachar needs to be monitored more closely.
Cachar reported close to 100 cases in the last 24 hours yet there are people stepping out for reasons that are not really essential. Do you think it is due to lack of awareness and in that case how do you educate people to live with the virus around us?
We are aware that a section of the population has less than the desired level of awareness and controlled behaviour. All kinds of public awareness campaign are on to educate the public. It’s a matter of time and I am sure all the members of the public would realise the necessity of modified behaviour and benefits of the same very soon.
You recently ran a nationally appreciated Twitter campaign asking people for their suggestions while unlocking Guwahati. With the fear rising among people, there is an eagerness for lockdown in Cachar. What are the aspects depending on which you decide if a lockdown is necessary for a particular district?
Thank you for the compliment. Decisions on Lockdown is a very complex process in which safety of the public is of primary concern. At the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of the people in the general livelihood and social welfare. Decisions are taken keeping in mind factors such as the number of positive cases, social transmission level and expected spread of the pandemic.
Silchar Medical College and Civil Hospital are always overcrowded. With the pandemic, the medical infrastructure is under immense pressure. As more Model Hospitals are dedicated to COVID Care, what will happen to non-COVID related illness?
This aspect of public healthcare has been of serious concern for all of us. The health department has taken all measures to ensure that in our effort to fight the pandemic, no general patient is deprived of healthcare. We have taken measures to incorporate services of private hospitals to take care of the non-COVID patients.
There is a perception among the general public that the chief secretary is not involved in affairs related to Barak Valley. Your comment? How often do you interact with the deputy commissioners in Barak Valley?
I would emphatically differ. For me, as the Chief Secretary of Assam, all parts of the state are my favourite and no area, however physically distanced, is of lesser importance. I very regularly interact with all the three Deputy Commissioners either over the telephone or other means of electronic communication including interactive social media platforms.
Recently, social gatherings like wedding, memorials were witnessed in Barak Valley. While this is irresponsible behaviour on the part of the organisers it is a failure of Police too. How do you stop such gatherings and what role can the general public play in order to help the administration in reporting and eventually stopping such events?
You would agree with me that using policing and force is not always the only means of awareness generation and ensuring compliance. Society has a bigger and more important role to play. If we are reminded of our social responsibilities by our friends, relatives and neighbours, we will surely love to comply with all desired levels of compliance and avoid risky and unnecessary activities. For this, I would appeal to all the members of the society to come forward and assist the administration.
You are hit by a twin problem, pandemic coupled with a flood. Though the flood situation in Barak Valley is under control so far, the rivers did flow over the danger level. With so much resource (both workforce and infrastructure) already devoted to COVID do you think it’s necessary to train volunteers from the community to meet the demand of trained officials in disaster management?
Community participation and assistance is always welcome but we have to be extra cautious not to endanger the well being of the good samaritan. Handling flood rescue is a risky and skilful task which cannot be safely entrusted to inexperienced and untrained hands. So far as relief is concerned, we would surely welcome assistance from the public under the guidance of the District Disaster Management Authority.
Recently, honourable CM interacted with his counterpart in Meghalaya on the issue of transit difficulty between the state capital and Barak Valley. How closely are you monitoring the issue, what should the people of Barak Valley do when they are stopped and asked for IDs by the civilians in Meghalaya?
This matter has also been brought to our notice and we have taken it up at the highest administrative level. We are also aware that some underlying fear triggered by a sense of danger might have caused such incidence. I am sure our neighbours in other states would be amenable to reason once we are able to allay their fears. After all, we are friends and neighbours and maintaining the most cordial reaction between us is of paramount importance.
Lastly, your message for the people of the three districts of Barak Valley in their fight with COVID19?
These are most difficult times we are going through and that’s why I would appeal to all to maintain strict personal and social COVID protocols and to ensure that along with self, everyone must take the responsibility to keep society safe. I am sure, with the sincerest cooperation of all and strict adherence to the guidelines of the administration, we shall overcome the present crisis facing us all.