New Delhi: Doctor-turned-politician Harsh Vardhan Monday took charge as the Union Health Minister, almost five years after he was divested of the charge.
Vardhan, who reached his office Nirman Bhawan on a cycle, said his priority will be to strengthen the implementation of the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PM-JAY). He said he will ensure that the people in every nook and corner of the country are able to avail the benefits of the scheme.
"Since the launch of PM-JAY, around 27 lakh people have availed the benefits under the scheme. However, still many people are not aware of it. Some people who are in direct need of the benefits provided under the insurance scheme are not able to avail it due to eligibility criteria issues," Vardhan said.
Next on his priority list, he said, is to complete the unfinished target of transforming nearly 1.5 lakh primary health centres and sub-centres as 'health and wellness centres' by 2022 to provide comprehensive and quality primary care close to the community.
Presently, around 10,000 health and wellness centres are operational in 35 states and Union territories under the government's flagship Ayushman Bharat scheme. Eradication of Tuberculosis by 2025, completing new AIIMS projects announced by the previous government and reforming the medical education sector will be some of the pressing issues for the newly-appointed minister.
Vardhan said he was "grateful" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for entrusting him with the responsibility of the health ministry. "I am thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for trusting me and giving me this responsibility. Health of the people of this country is the top priority of Modi government and we will make every effort to achieve healthcare for all," he said.
On the World Bicycle Day, he also tweeted that cycling is his "favourite sport".
"#Cycling is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean & environmentally sustainable means of transport. #UNGA has declared June 3 as #WorldBicycleDay to underline contribution of cycling to sustainable development goals. It's my fav sport too 2 #BeatAirPollution @UN (sic)," the Union minister wrote on the microblogging site. He also shared several pictures in his post where he is seen riding a cycle.
Vardhan continues to hold Science & Technology and Earth Sciences portfolios.
Earlier, he was appointed as the Union Health minister in 2014 and was later given the charge of the Ministries of Earth Sciences and Science and Technology. J P Nadda held the portfolio in the outgoing cabinet.
Vardhan was given the additional charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in May 2017, after the demise of Union minister Anil Madhav Dave.