- Ashwini Vaishnaw took charge as Railways and IT Minister
- Anurag Thakur took charge as I&B, and Sports Minister
- Kiren Rijiju took charge of Law Ministry in presence of Buddhist monks
A day after the reboot of the union cabinet, a number of newly appointed ministers took charge of their assignments, including Mansukh Mandaviya – the new Health Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw – the new Railways and IT minister, and Anurag Thakur – the new Information and Broadcasting minister and Kiren Rijiju, the new Law Minister.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed Mr Mandaviya – wearing a face mask – being greeted at the offices of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with a bouquet.
Mr Mandaviya – who will also head the Chemicals and Fertilizers ministry – takes charge at a critical time in the government’s fight against COVID-19. India has seen off a devastating second wave of Covid infections and is scrambling to scale up vaccinations ahead of a potential third wave.
Over the past week he also visited the facilities of three Covid vaccine manufacturers in the country – Serum Institute in Pune, Zydus and a Bharat Biotech facility producing Covaxin in Ahmedabad.
In a short video shared by ANI, Ashwini Vaishnaw – who faces the daunting task of heading two of the more high-profile ministries – can be seen seated at his new office at Rail Bhawan (Indian Railways’ head office) in Delhi and interacting with his officers.
“Took charge as Cabinet Minister of Railways today. Once again, from the core of my heart, I extend my gratitude to Hon’ble PM Narendra Modiji for entrusting me this responsibility,” he tweeted.
Took charge as Cabinet Minister of Railways today. Once again from the core of my heart, I extend my gratitude to Hon’ble PM @narendramodi ji for entrusting me this responsibility.@RailMinIndiapic.twitter.com/OvhRwVHFNX
— Ashwini Vaishnaw (@AshwiniVaishnaw) July 8, 2021
Mr Vaishnaw’s deputies – Darshana Vikram Jardos and Danve Raosaheb Dadarao, BJP MPs from Gujarat and Maharashtra, respectively – also took charge of their offices today.
“Indian Railways is a major part of PM Modi’s vision. His vision for the railways is to transform the lives of the people… that everyone – common man, farmers and the poor – get the benefits. I will work for that vision,” Mr Vaishnaw told reporters this morning.
Heading the Railways ministry will be a stern test of Mr Vaishnaw’s management skills; not only is it one of the largest rail networks in the world, it employs lakhs of men and women and is a key component of the Indian economy, carrying over 112 million tonnes of freight in June alone.
Mr Vaishnaw – who holds an MBA from Wharton and and MTech from IIT (Kanpur) – will also have to oversee 126 ‘critical’ and ‘super critical’ projects that are worth a combined Rs 1,15,000 crore.
The ministry was earlier headed by Piyush Goyal, who will now lead the ministries of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and Textiles.
Mr Vaishnaw also took charge as the new IT minister today, replacing Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was lately locked in a bitter row with Twitter over the new IT rules. Mr Vaishnaw’s deputy in the IT Ministry – Rajeev Chandrasekhar – also took charge.
The new Law Minister – Kiren Rijiju – also took charge as Ravi Shankar Prasad’s replacement.
Mr Rijiju, who was promoted from a junior minister rank, is a law graduate who earlier handled Youth Affairs and Sports. He represents the Arunachal Pradesh West constituency in the Lok Sabha.
In other ANI visuals, Anurag Thakur and Meenakshi Lekhi could also be seen at their new offices.
Mr Thakur, who was formerly the junior Finance Minister, took charge at the I&B Ministry, which was previously led by Prakash Javadekar. Mr Javadekar, who was also the Environment Minister, was one of a handful of high-profile exits from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
“PM Modi has done terrific work in the last seven years to take India forward. The work done by people before me in the I&B Ministry and the responsibility given to me by the PM… I will try to meet those expectations,” Mr Thakur told reporters.
— ANI (@ANI) July 8, 2021
Meenakshi Lekhi – a Lok Sabha MP from Delhi and a- also took charge of her new assignment – she will be the junior minister in the External Affairs and Culture ministries.
“Women have been given big responsibilities. People used to speak of women empowerment but PM Modi made it possible that the country is led by empowered women, who are provided recognition and given responsibility… this is praiseworthy,” she told ANI.
Prime Minister Modi led a massive overhaul of his cabinet yesterday, with big names like Dr Harsh Vardhan (ex-Health Minister), Ravi Shankar Prasad (ex-Law and IT Minister) and Prakash Javadekar (ex-Environment and I&B Minister) stepping down.
The reshuffle boosted cabinet ministers from 21 to 30 and junior ministers from 23 to 45. There are fewer junior ministers with independent charge – the figure has dropped from nine to two.
One of the BJP’s high-profile acquisitions from the Congress, Jyotiraditya Scindia has been given charge of Civil Aviation at a time when the sector is struggling under the impact of COVID-19. The ministry was once handled by his father Madhavrao Scindia, who died in a plane crash in 2001.
Hardeep Singh Puri, who was previously the Civil Aviation Minister, is now the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Housing and Urban Affairs.
Sarbananda Sonowal, who stepped aside as Assam Chief Minister so Himanta Biswa Sarma could be appointed, has been given Ports, Shipping and Waterways. He will also handle Ayush Ministry.
“I congratulate all the colleagues who have taken oath today and wish them the very best for their ministerial tenure. We will continue working to fulfil aspirations of the people and build a strong and prosperous India,” PM Modi tweeted yesterday after the oath-taking ceremony.
I congratulate all the colleagues who have taken oath today and wish them the very best for their ministerial tenure. We will continue working to fulfil aspirations of the people and build a strong and prosperous India. #Govt4Growthpic.twitter.com/AVz9vL77bO
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 7, 2021
With input from ANI