In a candid conversation, Amit Khatri, Deputy Commissioner, Gurugram
The young and dynamic DC of Gurugram took reins of the city administration when Haryana was getting ready to go to polls. For a 32-year-old DC, transferred from Jind to jump into turbulent waters was perhaps not easy. From there to the year 2020 which has thrown an unprecedented challenge to the world, he has steadily commanded his position.
Vineeta Jerath Grover, Editor SUBURB speaks to the calm, conscientious Amit Khatri, DC Gurugram.
With his futuristic vision, aces up his sleeve, and all preparedness of government& healthmachinery to face unwanted eventuality during the current testing times, he says, “Things are under control. People don’t need to worry; the administration is alert; as the city opens up to commercial activities following its checks & balances.’’
SUB: Since you took over the reins of Gurugram as the city’s DC, how has been your journey like given that your appointment was just months before Haryana went to polls and now it’s the COVID19 pandemic?
AK: The journey has definitely been very eventful with fair bit of challenges which both the administrations as well as the residents havehad to face together. There were somekey moments like the general assembly elections, monsoon rains and then the COVID pandemic which have gripped us over the last five to six months now. But alongside these, there has been emphasis on other factors such as improvement in citizen service delivery in which the administration takes pride in stating that on a comparative basis, Gurugram is leading at No.1, be it for delivery of online services, CM window performance or social media grievances tracker.
SUB: Do you feel some key areas during the pandemic situation have gotten ignored by the city administration?
AK: Certainly the pandemic has left an impact on a variety of sectors, including industries, employment, government revenues and many more. Various government departments have been effected either on account of employees contacting COVID or because of them being shut in the intervening period when COVID was at its peak.
SUB: There a second spike in COVID positive cases across the city. Your comments.
AK: There is no single reason to blame and it is a mix of various causative factors, including but not limited to the opening of our economy. There is much more free movement – regular traffic on the roads, railways, flights, more or less the usual. We are seeing greater people movement and engagement. There is also the aspect of complacency – minimal observance of social distancing, adherence to masks among other precautionary measures. The seriousness takes a hit when the issue drags on for five to six months now. We all need to pull up our socks and focus on the brevity of the situation to avoid the spike in cases.
SUB: With new cases going up from under 100 to over 300 every day, do you see the city reaching its curve anytime soon?
AK: Let us see how the curve unfolds. There was a very long ebb in between with about 50 – 70 cases a day wherein only five to ten patients required hospitalization. Currently, the numbers have risen, but we hope to continue with testing, containment and contact tracing to bring the situation back to before. We do not see any further lockdown unless the situation demands the same. Restrictions, containments zones and adherence to SOPs I feel are more important at this time.
SUB: How prepared is Gurugram health sector to handle the second wave of COVID positive cases?
AK: Gurugram is a medical destination and it attracts patients from across India & abroad. We are blessed to have a robust health set-up – be it adequate number of beds or healthcare professionals. At this moment and in near future, I don’t foreseeany issue in us catering to patients from within Gurugram or from Haryana or even North India.
We are maintaining a mandatory reservation of beds in hospitals for COVID positive patients, so there is no issue with availability of beds, critical care equipment or infra and healthcare professionals. People must not panic. Do not panic, not all COVID positive cases need hospitalization but if you have symptoms, without wasting time get your test done.
SUB: Anitgen Vs RT PCR, since there are lot of contradictory views in this regard.
AK: It has been widely publicized that RT-PCR is the gold standard of antigen testing and there wouldn’t be a greater certainty of antigens than in an RT-PCR test.
Every positive from an antigen is a certain positive but there could be a few false negatives also. RT-PCR is reliable as it covers all such cases which are possibly positive.
SUB: What inspired the need for setting up of plasma bank in Gurugram? How’s the response?
AK: The plasma donation drive started around a month back wherein we tied up various associations like the Rotary Blood Bank, Red Cross Society, few NGOs and a back-end team of volunteers. The donation pace has picked up over the last fortnight but still it’s a long way to go. We have to reach out and motivate our COVIDrecoveredpatients to come forward and not fear to donate plasma. Going forward we are considering some reward scheme also for plasma donors.
SUB: How far it is fair to open the restaurants, Metro lines given that the cases are constantly accelerating in the country and even in Gurugram?
AK: It’s a well-thought out decision to permit certain activities in a gradual phased out manner, while also ensuring there are due checks & balances in place. There are clear well-defined SOPs for each of the activities before they roll-out to the public at large – be it the opening of restaurants, malls or shopping centers, operation of mass transit systems like metro or buses, or any similar initiative. All activities allowed are pre- discussed at length, and then allowed with necessary restrictions.
In case of the Metro itself, there are due safeguards in place. Proper screening, thermal scanning, maintaining adequate distance within the station premises and outside are all charted to ensure due safety by DMRC. I would also like to appeal to all those frequenting public places or using Metro service, to not get complacent about the SOPs and stay vigilant; maintain social distancing, wear masks and follow required safeguards.
It’s not just a top-down approach but about us assimilating the safety guidelines within everyday life practices. We should be observant as not everyone can be policed or monitored 24×7. These practices must be adopted as a way of life.
SUB: Haryana slid to 16th spot from 3rd in the Ease of Doing Business. What have you to say about it?
AK: The ease of doing business index is very dynamic and it is better to zoom in on the individual parameters that lead to determination of the ranking. I am confident that the profile that the district has due to its close proximity to the National Capital, being an independent power center in itself and also being close to the center of consumption and production; it enjoys a very strategic location advantage which works in its favour. The infrastructure and the capacity of the city to rebound from the crisis is much stronger and we are already seeing a resurgence of economic activity. I am sure that the coming years would depict a much better performance.
SUB: Post Covid, what would be the key priorities for Gurugram?
AK: Further improvement in delivery of various kinds of citizen services are key focus areas. There is a very robust system in place in the form of Saral Portal. Our emphasis would be on further improvisation of the same for ease of access and due tracking of various citizen queries and services. That is a priority in the near future. We would also be keeping an eye on how the current crisis further unfolds and we will modify our aims accordingly.
SUB: From being a computer engineer to an IAS Officer, how has your life changed?
AK: This has certainly been a very fruitful journey. I consider myself lucky to have been granted with this position and opportunity to work for the masses at this crucial time. I consider everyday as a very learning and every challenge as an opportunity to further improve myself.
SUB: What have been your personal learnings from the pandemic?
AK: It has been a great learning experience and an opportunity to work with not just key government departments but also citizens and other key stake-holders on the whole. There has been immense involvement of the corporate, RWAs and other key decision making bodies during the enforcement for Internet Communication (IC) campaign and for addressing their grievances has been a good learning and we hope to continue.