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Health Ministry appoints nodal officer to disseminate district-wise details of COVID-19 facilities

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The Union Health Ministry said that the deputy secretary will be the nodal officer to “compile, collate and consolidate” information sought by RTI applicant

The Union Health Ministry has appointed Deputy Secretary Saranga Dhar Nayak the nodal officer for the dissemination of information related to COVID-19 treatment facilities, sought by an RTI applicant, in compliance with the directions of the CIC.

The Union Health Ministry said that the deputy secretary will be the nodal officer to “compile, collate and consolidate” information sought by RTI applicant and activist Venkatesh Nayak and put it on the website of the ministry as per the directions issued by the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Venkatesh Nayak, from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives, had sought district-wise details of hospitals and healthcare facilities designated as COVID-19 treatment centres along with their postal addresses and telephone numbers and other related issues but the health ministry could not provide them.

After hearing Venkatesh Nayak’s plea, Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka had advised the ministry to appoint a nodal officer for the dissemination of COVID-19 related information in the public domain on suo motu basis in the larger public interest as mandated in the RTI Act.

Julka had observed that very pertinent information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic situation was sought by Venkatesh Nayak which could not be made available by any of the respondents.

“The fact that the application shuttled from one division of the public authority to another indicates that there is a very urgent requirement for notifying a nodal authority in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and DGHS to compile, collate and consolidate the information sought in the RTI application and suo motu upload the same on the website,” the order had said.

Julka had issued an advisory to the ministry on a plea by Venkatesh Nayak to put out the information within 15 days.

He had noted it is well recognised that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be far-reaching and that all the stakeholders need to be cognizant of the importance of proper data and record management.

“Such records could also be useful for research and educational institutions involved in tracing the disease, mapping and analysing the genome of the pathogen to develop vaccines that require records and data accuracy,” he had said.

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