Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Saturday said bureaucrats were working during the crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak but "political leadership" was absent, going on to add that his statement should not be seen as criticism of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of which his party is a part.
Maharashtra has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, with Mumbai leading the count for any city in the country.
He also said that, currently, some senior Indian Administrative Service officers were on "compulsory wait" for a posting, while some bureaucrats were having to manage two departments simultaneously.
Doling out administrative advice to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Chavan, who has been on the top post earlier, said "the first job of the CM is to appoint good IAS officers to the right positions".
"And while making the appointments, the qualification background should be considered, so as to utilise their expertise in the present condition. Currently, there are around 10 senior IAS officers on compulsory wait with no work, while there are some officers handling the charge of two departments. The CM should fill up these posts in one day," he said.
Chavan said there was no point blaming "secretary level officers" as they will work as per their wish, "but the political leadership should take some prompt decisions".
However, he added, "I am not criticizing the state government. In fact, whatever I am saying should be taken positively. It should not look like I am criticizing my own government."
Interacting with reporters here, Chavan said all rights of administration were currently with collectors at the district level, SDOs at the tehsil level, and while this was needed, the "political leadership was absent and nowhere to be seen".
Chavan said the economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus-induced lockdown will require "good visionary leadership to deal with issues, be it industries, ramping up health care system or bailing out farmers".
Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to the country to become self-reliant, Chavan questioned if this was really possible at a time when most raw materials were being imported from China.
The Congress leader, who was a minister in the PMO during the UPA dispensation, said the definition of self-reliance had changed over the years.
"The idea of self-reliance that I will manufacture each and everything locally and will not import anything is itself stupid. Can we afford to stop the import of crude oil and shift to cycles," he asked.
Chavan said income in the form of VAT on diesel and petrol, stamp duty on property registration, excise from liquor and RTO charges etc have dried up and the Centre must give states their share or else "we will not be able to pay
He said health care, staff salaries, pension etc must get priority over big infrastructure projects currently underway.
Queried on IPS officer Amitabh Gupta, currently posted in the state Home department as a principal secretary, getting a clean chit from the administration for his letter allowing scam-accused DHFL promoters Wadhawans to travel during lockdown, Chavan said the former had been let off by the home minister with a reprimand.