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First day first show: New ministers take charge, resolve to meet deadlines

New ministers who took charge of their offices on Monday say they will work relentlessly to complete the government’s ambitions programmes.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2017 23:22 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
New Railways Minister Piyush Goyal takes charge from his predecessor Suresh Prabhu at Rail Bhawan in New Delhi on Monday.
New Railways Minister Piyush Goyal takes charge from his predecessor Suresh Prabhu at Rail Bhawan in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

Newly appointed railways minister Piyush Goyal, who took charge on Monday, said his “top priority” would be to ensure passenger safety even as he described his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu, as his “mentor and guide”.

“I will strive to work on the template of rail modernization that my predecessor Suresh Prabhu had outlined,” Goyal told reporters. Prabhu, who was appointed commerce and industry minister on Sunday, had taken a number of initiatives to revitalize the railways but offered to resign following a spate of fatal rail accidents.

Similar gestures towards their predecessors marked the first day in office of many ministers who were given new responsibilities by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sunday’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri, who was given independent charge of the housing and urban affairs ministry, hit the ground running on Monday, holding three meetings -- on the status of metro rail expansion, the NDA government’s flagship programme Housing for All and the functioning of CPWD. Former Prime Minister Manmnohan Singh, during whose term Puri was India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, called to congratulate him on Monday.

Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs (Independent Charge) being felicitated by Medithi Ravi Kanth, CMD HUDCO while he takes charge at his office in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

Puri, who was in Colombo a day before the reshuffle when he got a call about his appointment, had a packed day. At the meeting on metro rail, he impressed upon officials that India was lagging behind China in expanding the metro network. “We need to catch up,” an official quoted the minister as saying. Puri advocated private investment “wherever feasible”, said the official. Ministry officials also gave him a two-hour presentation on Housing for All. “It (the ministry) is a new chapter but the issues are not completely unfamiliar. As India’s permanent representative to the UN, I had to deal with issues of habitat cities and urban space management,” he said.

Road transport and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari, who was also given the charge of water resources and Ganga rejuvenation on Sunday, announced the setting up of an inter-ministerial task force to expedite implementation of Namami Ganga mission, Modi government’s ambitious programme.

Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadari travelling in Delhi Metro to participate at an event at Huda City Centre in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

“We will form a task force...We will come out with a schedule of targets to be achieved under the mission in a week. We will try to realise the dreams of the PM in a time-bound, transparent manner...we will meet all the deadlines fixed by my predecessor Umaji,” he said. Uma Bharti, who has been shifted to sanitation and drinking water ministry, opted to field questions on Ken-Betwa river-linking project when it was posed to Gadkari.

Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was promoted to Cabinet rank and given additional responsibility of skill development and entrepreneurship, also took charge on Monday and said that his top priority will be to work towards bringing scale and speed to PM Skill India programme.

Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan speaks on phone in New Delhi, India, May 5, 2016. (Reuters File Photo)

Giving credit to his predecessor Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Pradhan said, “This is a policy-driven ministry and in the last three years we have been able to lay down the foundation for skill development in the country… We will now explore all possible grid system, information systems, technology advent that the country is witnessing, conventional jobs and new age skills to enable a more efficient outcome of our programs and schemes in skills.”

Kiren Rijiju, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and other BJP MPs after the BJP parliamentary party meeting in New Delhi on August 8, 2017. (PTI)

Alphons Kannanthanam took charge of the tourism ministry on Monday. In deference to his predecessor Mahesh Sharma, who was divested of his tourism portfolio, the former “Delhi Demolition Man” waited for about an hour for his predecessor to arrive and hand over charge. In the mean time, the former bureaucrat refused to occupy his chair.

Outgoing Minister Mahesh Sharma welcomes Alphons Kannanthanam , Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism, as he takes over the charge in his office at Transport Bhawan in New Delhi, on September 4, 2017. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

When Sharma walked in, Kannanthanam insisted that his predecessor sit on the same chair. “We can go much, much beyond incredible India. We want to create an India where we love ourselves, love a clean India and its history. Then we tell the world, come and see us,” he said, in his first remarks as tourism minister.