No unfastened ends

Gurugram’s prominent position on the business map of the country makes Amit Khatri’s job that much more difficult. “I have twin objectives at hand, save lives and livelihoods,” he says. Gurugram, with 54 positive COVID-19 cases so far, is among the worst-affected districts in Haryana. The Khatri-led administration has designated 24 containment zones in three blocks, 11 in Sohna, 10 in Gurugram and three in rural Pataudi. “With the gradual opening up of the economy, we will have to ensure the containment remains effective,” he says.

After April 20, when the Centre issued guidelines for partial opening of businesses, the state started easing restrictions; many enterprises, too, have applied for reopening their premises. Rajesh Khullar, principal secretary at the chief minister’s office, says the broad contours for permission were laid out to the district administrations as guidelines. “If they are convinced about a business proposal, they are free to give permissions,” he says.

Khatri, a 2011 batch IAS officer, earned his stripes during the violent protests of the Jats in 2016 and became a blue-eyed boy of the present dispensation. He was then posted at the epicentre of the trouble in Rohtak. In 2020, the lockdown found him battling COVID-19 in the most important district of Haryana. Khatri’s biggest test came when he had to move quickly to halt the overnight exodus of migr­ants on March 25. He used the CSR funds of businesses, mobilised NGOs and set up relief camps. Food, clothes and other amenities, including sanitary pads for women, were provided. Apart from this, he has created an army of 4,000-odd volunteers to help the elderly. Khatri has also been lucky he didn’t have to hustle to augment the health facilities in the district. Gurugram is home to some of the premier private hospitals in the country, including Medanta Medicity, Fortis and Artemis.

The next step is a phased opening up of industry. On April 30, Khatri’s team green-flagged sectors like construction (only with ‘in-situ’ accommodation for workers), manufacturing (33 per cent cap in workers) and IT/ITES (at 50 per cent capacity). Needless to say, all social distancing and other protocols will have to be maintained. Auto majors such as Maruti, Hero Motors and Honda, too, have started their units, albeit in a scaled-down manner.

Khatri says his team has developed a highly responsive communication system with the people. “During the Covid operations, I made it a habit to respond to every call or message and close the issue the same day before I went to sleep,” he says. This has already helped in streamlining various processes. He also makes regular visits to the relief camps, civil hospitals and food distribution centres to assess any gaps in delivery.

In urban Gurugram, residents are hoping he will open up the city soon. There is a sizeable population here living in gated complexes. The Khatri-led administration provided them with mobile ATMs and grocery stores (using a few converted state transport buses). “Initially, we were apprehensive about the availability of medicines and groceries, especially since neither my help nor I could go to the markets. But things have been very much sorted here,” says Vinay­jeet Rathore, a retired army man and Gurugram resident.

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