Guruprasad Mohapatra. Image: Twitter/DPIIT
A pall of gloom engulfed the governance circles of New Delhi on June 19 as Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), died due to COVID-related complications.
Mohapatra, one of the top bureaucrats in the Narendra Modi-led government, was at the forefront of India's response to the second COVID-19 wave. The prime minister had appointed him as the head of an Empowered Group which was in charge of monitoring the supply of medical grade oxygen across the country.
Officials who worked with him said Mohapatra’s commitment to his work can be gauged from the fact that he chaired an important meeting of the Empowered Group to review the supply of oxygen to the states on April 19, 2021, even though he himself had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was to be hospitalised in AIIMS, New Delhi just a few hours later.
Despite running a high fever, he continued to keep himself available round the clock, attending meetings virtually and ensuring that nearly ten times the normal daily requirement of medical oxygen was delivered, according to them.
Mohapatra's efforts were crucial in ensuring the crucial supply of medical oxygen, which has significantly reduced the number of COVID-19 fatalities. Unfortunately, the officer lost his own battle against coronavirus days after the country emerged out of the peak of the second wave.
PM Modi's condolence message on his tragic demise reflects the value attached to his work and highlights his contributions as a zealous and upright bureaucrat. "Saddened by the demise of Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, DPIIT Secretary. I had worked with him extensively in Gujarat and at the Centre. He had a great understanding of administrative issues and was known for his innovative zeal. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti," Modi tweeted.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba also expressed deep shock at his untimely death. Lauding the example set by Mohapatra, Gauba said that “even while he was suffering from COVID in the last two months, he remained committed to his work, continuously monitoring the supply of oxygen movement across the country in most challenging time. He will always be remembered for his proactive initiatives and commitment towards public service.”
Mohapatra was a 1986-batch Gujarat cadre IAS officer. The Odisha-born bureaucrat is widely remembered in Gujarat for his stint as the municipal commissioner in Surat from 1999 to 2002. Later, as municipal commissioner in Ahmedabad, he played key roles in some of the then chief minister Narendra Modi’s flagship projects, including Sabarmati Riverfront, Kankaria Lakefront and Heritage Promotion.
In 2016, he was appointed as the chairman of Airports Authority of India, and was given charge of DPIIT in August 2019. Mohapatra was set to retire next year; though the pandemic has snuffed out a precious life, his remarkable career will remain an inspiration for thousands of dedicated civil servants.