By Subash Mohapatra
BHUBANESWAR: Days after Odisha government dismissed 448 doctors for prolonged absence from duty without any explanation; eight senior officers of state Revenue and Disaster Management Department have gone missing in action, setting off a frenetic hunt by the authorities for their whereabouts.
The missing doctors’ sage got murkier after the case of doctor Motilal Goud, who went missing for days and now lodged in judicial custody for falsifying a government gazette and notification of labour department, came to light.
Odisha government is finding it difficult to come to terms with the absenteeism the officers, who are not joining their duties in the rural tribal areas, where they were posted. Whereabouts of the officer are not known for years, sources said.
Eight senior officers from revenue and disaster management department are charged with disciplinary action for their role in a 50-crore scam in Koraput.
Directorate of Local Fund Audit has issued several request letters to the department seeking present and permanent address of those officers. The officers, who were functioning as the block development officers (BDOs) in Laxmipur block of Koraput district, were identified as Rajendra Pattnaik, Jyoti Ranjan Mishra, D Jagannath, Subash Chandra Das, Chakradhar Behera, Kalu Charan Sahu, Narayan Samantaray and Upendra Nath Jena.
The government notification said there is a need for the present and permanent address of those officers for “early disposal of surcharge proceeding cases pending against him during his tenure as such for the year 1998-99, 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2004-05.”
The primary investigation conducted by the audit department said they were involved in irregularities, misappropriated public funds and they are under disciplinary scanner. Now, in the context on non-availability of the present and permanent address of the tainted officers, the notices are not served upon them.
In one of the cases, Motilal, a health officer missed from his official post from health department, joined labour department. He had having unholy nexus with ministers, MLAs and top officers.
Notably, Gouda reportedly issued a fake gazette notification on October 16 last year to over 100 industry bodies, including PSUs across the state enlisting five empanelled pathological laboratories and hospitals, and had allegedly made about Rs one crore as kickback.
Further, the accused doctor sent emails to industry bodies from his personal ID.
He had inked an agreement with Nalco for Rs 63 lakh and was planning to sign another for Rs 1.6 crore deal with the Nava Ratna public sector unit.
Gouda along with his accomplices had allegedly conspired to falsify the gazette notification causing financial loss to the government. He was allegedly responsible for wrongful gains to specific private firms.
After the matter came to light, the state government suspended him and ordered a Crime Branch (CB) inquiry into the alleged irregularities.
The EOW of the Crime Branch registered a case against the assistant director on June 6 of forgery, cheating and criminal conspiracy, causing the disappearance of evidence.
According to the complaint, filed by the director of Directorate of Factories and Boilers with the EOW, Gouda had entered his room to manipulate the computer to destroy evidence and had taken away some documents.
The EOW has arrested three persons, including a middleman and two pathology unit owners, apart from Gouda in this connection.
Missing doctors case
Recently, the state government dismissed 448 doctors for prolonged absence from duty even as it struggles to fill up several vacancies.
The Health and Family Welfare department had in June last year issued notices against 613 doctors seeking explanation for their unauthorised absence while initiating departmental proceedings against them.
With the whereabouts of the absentees not known, the department had published the notice in newspapers drawing the charges under Odisha Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1962 for abandoning duty.
Only around 89 doctors have responded to the notice and submitted written statements explaining their absence while another 76 have been identified and departmental action is being initiated against them. The rest 448 are still untraceable forcing the government to decide on their sacking.
Dismissal of 448 doctors will be a first for the state even though the impact will not be visible as they were already absent from their posts.
To add to woes, the KBK districts continue to be snubbed by doctors as even selected candidates have not joined their posts there. Districts like Deogarh, Sonepur, Malkangiri and Boudh have found absolutely no takers.
It will be a huge setback as the main motive was to infuse medical personnel into backward districts. The government has recently announced major incentives like double salaries to attract doctors to work in remote backward regions. However, it fails to make any major impact, an official rued.
The state is facing an acute shortage of doctors as more than 34 per cent of the posts are lying vacant. The rate of absenteeism among those in position is also abject.