Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), passed away due to COVID-related complications on June 19, 2021. A few weeks ago, when the second wave of COVID-19 hit India, Mohapatra was one of the civil servants who worked tirelessly to save the lives of citizens and arrange oxygen supply for them when he was himself diagnosed with COVID-19 and was running a high fever.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled the demise saying, “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."
Mohapatra exemplified the governance philosophy and work ethic of ‘Team Modi’ – India comes first and everything else is later.
A few weeks ago, as the Centre was working to ensure that states are provided with everything they need during the COVID-19 second wave, a key part of this effort was ensuring supply of medical grade oxygen to various states. PM Modi had entrusted this work to Mohapatra, who was made the head of one of the Empowered Groups in charge of monitoring the supply of medical oxygen across the country.
His commitment to his work can be gauzed from the fact that he chaired an important meeting of the Empowered Group to review supply of oxygen to the states on April 19, 2021 even though he himself had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was to be hospitalized in AIIMS, New Delhi just a few hours later. Despite running a high fever, he continued to keep himself available 24 by 7, attending meetings virtually, and ensuring that nearly 10 times the normal amount daily requirement of medical oxygen was delivered.
During the peak of the second wave, many in the media and social media had commented upon how officers like Guruprasad Mohapatra, Sumita Dawra, and others were continuously attending court case hearings in various courts and even though this was distracting them from their main work, yet they continued to labour on tirelessly. That they were personally infected and were heavily burdened with multiple daily court hearings, and yet continued to work non-stop to ameliorate the COVID situation speaks volumes of the work ethic and philosophy of service-before-self.
Once, during the COVID crisis, PM Modi returned from a trip to West Bengal and started a meeting with a team of officers at 11 PM. Guruprasad Mohapatra was also present in the meeting. PM Modi, on seeing him, enquired about his health and asked him why he was working at such hours despite being unwell himself? Mohapatra is said to have replied that he will be fine and as for working despite being unwell, that he was inspired by PM Modi himself who was working without ever taking a break and wanted to emulate him in putting the country above self.
Mohapatra was a 1986-batch Gujarat cadre IAS officer. He worked as the Municipal Commissioner in Surat from 1999 to 2002 and is remembered for the good work during his stint there. Later, as Municipal Commissioner in Ahmedabad, he played key roles in some of the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s iconic flagship projects such as Sabarmati Riverfront, BRTS, Kankaria Lakefront and Heritage Promotion.
After a medical battle of one and a half months, Mohapatra, a key person in India’s response to the second wave, died due to post-COVID complications on June 19, 2021. Guruprasad Mohapatra was set to retire next year but gave his all to the country even before that.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba also expressed deep shock at his untimely death. Lauding the example set by Guruprasad 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.”
Guruprasad Mohapatra was a shining example of the kind of people in ‘Team Modi’, who work hard, non-stop and continuously put people’s interest above everything, sometimes even their own health.