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PM Modi’s message in cabinet reshuffle, Indian IT workers rattled by layoffs: Top stories

Nirmala Sitharaman becomes defence minister, PM Narendra Modi to attend BRICS Summit, and North Korea conducts its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. Here are the top stories to bring you up to date.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2017 07:39 IST
HT Correspondent
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the new ministers after the cabinet reshuffle in New Delhi on Sunday.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the new ministers after the cabinet reshuffle in New Delhi on Sunday.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

PM Modi revamps team with eye on 2019; Sitharaman gets defence, Goyal railways

Nirmala Sitharaman became the defence minister of the country, only the second woman after Indira Gandhi to hold the post since Independence, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi revamped his team on Sunday, inducting nine new members and changing major portfolios to bring dynamism and efficiency in governance. Piyush Goyal became the railway minister, replacing Suresh Prabhu who had offered to resign after a spate of fatal train disasters. Prabhu replaced Sitharaman as minister of commerce and industry. In probably the last major restructuring of his team before the 2019 general elections, Modi displayed innovation and boldness in picking new ministers and dropping half-a-dozen non-performers. Read the story here.

Nirmala Sitharaman: The slow but steady rise of India’s new defence minister

Until Saturday, she was a goner, at least that’s what media reports claimed. Come Sunday, Nirmala Sitharaman scripted history. An alumna of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the 58-year-old BJP leader is the second woman to be the Raksha Mantri, after Indira Gandhi, India’s first woman prime minister. “Somebody who has come from a small town, grown into the party with all the support of the leadership, and if given such responsibility, it just makes you feel sometimes that cosmic grace is there. Otherwise it is impossible,” she told reporters after taking oath. She served as a member of the National Commission for Women between 2003 and 2005. Scholarly and non-controversial, Sitharaman, who also had a stint with PricewaterhouseCoopers research unit in London, was brought into the BJP’s national executive committee in 2008 and appointed party’s national spokesperson in 2010 when Nitin Gadkari took over as the party president. Read the story here.

Opinion: A message in cabinet reshuffle: PM Modi won’t shy away from testing strategies

If performance was the criterion for promotion, demotion and resignation of ministers in the latest reshuffle and expansion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s team on Sunday, it also reflected his intent to try out new strategies to rev up governance. What marked the third rejig of Team Modi was the Prime Minister’s decisiveness and willingness to make experiments. He is known to spring surprises in picking his team and there were quite a few this weekend — giving independent charge of ministries to three former bureaucrats who joined the Union council for the first time. The promotion of Sitharaman and Dharmendra Pradhan and induction of KJ Alphons in the government are expected to boost the BJP’s prospects in their home states — Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Kerala. Read the story here.

PM Modi reaches Xiamen to attend BRICS Summit, focus on his meeting with Xi Jinping

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the rain-drenched southeastern coastal city of Xiamen on Sunday night for the 9th BRICS summit in the backdrop of a much anticipated meeting with President Xi Jinping following the resolution of the two-month Doklam standoff last week. When Modi meets Xi on Tuesday at the end of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit, it will be the first time the two leaders will have a one-on-one after the resolution of the military impasse that had plunged bilateral ties to a new chill. The much anticipated bilateral meeting will be Modi’s last engagement in China before he flies to Myanmar for a state visit. Read the story here.

Rattled by layoffs, Indian IT workers grapple with fear, fraud and isolation

Layoffs and job insecurity have led a horde of IT professionals to the edge of desperation. In many cases, IT workers paid anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 18 lakh for a job abroad. Hyderabad’s cyber police say online job fraud is now the most commonly reported crime there. Entirely unprepared to deal with the insecurity of losing a job around which they built their lives and identities, IT workers are either shutting out the world or crying out for intervention. Read the story here.

As Piyush Goyal takes charge of railway ministry, many challenges await him

As the third railway minister in the NDA government since 2014, Piyush Goyal carries the onerous responsibility of achieving what his predecessors had aimed at but failed to attain — a turnaround of India’s largest public transporter. The government is trying to revamp the transporter, but it continued to creak and groan under the weight of its own contradictions despite frequent changes at the helm. Networks are as clogged as they were decades ago, with 40% or 492 of 1,219 sections running at 100% or above-line capacity. The rolling stock such as locomotives, coaches or wagons remain antiquated and — with modernisation not happening at the desired pace — British-era maintenance systems are still practised. Read the story here.

Cabinet rejig: Marwar region continues to dominate central politics

It seemed for a while that Rajasthan would miss the bus in what has been touted as the last reshuffle of the Union Cabinet before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It was only late Saturday night when it became clear that Jodhpur MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was making the cut into the elite club. His inclusion in Team Modi has underlined the dominance of Marwar in central politics. The Marwar region of Rajasthan comprises Barmer, Jalore, Jodhpur, Nagaur and Pali districts. MPs from three of these districts – PP Choudhary from Pali, CR Chaudhary from Nagaur and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from Jodhpur – are now in the Union council of ministers. Read the story here.

Game changer or game over? North Korea’s possible hydrogen bomb sends shockwaves

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday, which it said was a successful detonation of an advanced hydrogen bomb, technically known as a two-stage thermonuclear device. All of North Korea’s six nuclear tests including the one on Sunday have taken place at its underground testing site in Punggye-ri, deep in mountainous terrain, and it is hard to independently verify the claims. But experts who studied the impact of the earthquake caused by the explosion -- measured by the US Geological Survey at magnitude 6.3 -- said there was enough strong evidence to suggest the reclusive state has either developed a hydrogen bomb or was getting very close. Read the story here.

US closure of diplomatic sites a blatantly hostile act, says Russia

Moscow denounced the American decision to close three Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States as a “blatantly hostile act” that violated international law and demanded Washington reverse the order on Sunday. The United States has ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco and two buildings housing trade missions in Washington and New York. It is the latest broadside in a tit-for-tat exchange between the countries that has helped push relations towards a new post-Cold War low. Read the story here.

Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar guide India to ODI series clean sweep in Sri Lanka

Virat Kohli was all swagger three days earlier but showed his subdued side on Sunday, scoring his 30th ODI century to lead India to a One-day International series sweep against Sri Lanka on Sunday. The India skipper sealed an unprecedented third series sweep at the helm after his superb, unbeaten 110 (116 balls, 9x4), his second century in a row, as he guided the visitors to a six-wicket victory in the fifth and final ODI at the Premadasa Stadium. India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar grabbed his maiden five-wicket ODI haul after rain delayed the start by half-an-hour, striking early and late. Read the story here.