TAMIL NADU

Govt. nod awaited for appointment of Health Officer

CHENNAI, JAN. 20. For nearly two years now, the Health department of the Chennai Corporation awaits the appointment of a permanent head.

The crucial post that is manned by an officer in charge after the last Health Officer, C.Vasudevan, retired in July 2000, has become a hot seat for a political tug-of-war.

Even though the political opposition in the civic body does not see eye to eye on any issue concerning development of the city, in this issue, they all seem to share a common platform.

Instead of pressing for the appointment of a permanent Health Officer the panel for which is pending with the Government, the in-charge officers were being shifted around at the whims and fancies of the Corporation top brass.

Under the MCMC Act, the health officer is the custodian of public health in the city. Perhaps the most powerful executive in the civic body, his responsibilities range from epidemic watch to licensing food outlets and trades. Apart from this, he has the role of monitoring a whole lot of special programmes including TB control and malaria eradication.

Initially, the drawing up of the panel ran into problems with the top decision makers swaying between the ``interested'' candidates. However, after months of lobbying and framing of charges, the panel of six probable candidates was drawn up which was later pruned to three. It was sent to the Government two years ago. A reply is still awaited.

In the scheme of things, a ``junior'' candidate who was unofficially being recommended for the post by both the ruling and opposition parties, is now in control in the department. He is, however, touted to be the ``next up'' due to problems in the candidature of the other senior officers in the panel.

The previous in-charge officer has been shifted to another sensitive post _ TB control.

The undoubted casualty in this case has been the department, the staff say. ``Crucial decisions to be taken by the department head are thus being manipulated by the policy makers. This is disheartening,'' says an employee.

Meanwhile, the post of the Additional Health Officer too is vacant, perhaps for the longest period of time in the history of the civic body. Though taken up in numerous appointment committees in the past, a solution never emerged.

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