The new council of minister of PM Narendra Modi swung into action soon after taking charge on Thursday post the first expansion and reshuffle of the prime minister’s core team after retaining power in May 2019. The mega overhaul came as the BJP-led government attempted an image makeover of his 26-month-old government facing grim challenges due to the Covid pandemic and a faltering economy.
As soon as the new leaders stepped in, railways ministry official DJ Narain said that all the offices and staff of Ashwini Vaishnaw’s office will work in two shift. The offices shall work from early morning, till midnight.
Changes on Day 1
• Vaishnaw has ordered officials to work in two shifts. The first shift will start at 7 am and end at 4 pm, and the second shift will start at 3 pm and end at 12 midnight.
“It’s for officers in MR cell only as is written in the note and it means -“Miles to go before we sleep..!" So much is to be done and every minute counts for the Railways on a mission mode. MR cell means minister’s office, not private, Railway staff," Narain said.
• Narayan Rane, the new Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) minister, apparently pulled up officers. Sources said that Rane acted tough on day one as the officials came to him without files and required documents.
Rane, who made his debut into the Cabinet and was the first to be sworn in, had switched over from the Shiv Sena and is a former chief minister of Maharashtra.
• Ashwini Vaishnaw, also the new IT minister, sent out a strong message to Twitter amid a bitter row between the micro-blogging site and the government over the new IT rules that make social media websites more accountable for third-party content.
Picking up from where his predecessor Ravi Shankar Prasad had left, Vaishnaw told Twitter that “the law of the land is supreme" and urged it to follow the rules.
• According to sources, all ministers also need to be in office at 9.30 am and not working from home. They said that PM Modi has stressed that there are no junior and senior ministers, “all are colleagues, and subordinate culture will not work".
• Sources further said that the prime minister has advised his newly sworn in ministers to stay away from celebrating ministership, and instead “focus on celebrating work as a gratitude to people who brought the government to power with such a mandate".
• Unless completely necessary, the newly sworn-in ministers are advised to stay in Delhi till at least August 15.
PM Modi’s Focus on Covid
In the meeting with council of ministers, PM Modi is learnt to have said that over few days, we all have been seeing pictures and videos of crowded places and people roaming about without masks or social distancing. “This is not a pleasant sight and it should instil a sense of fear in us," Modi was quoted by sources.
“Powered by our Covid warriors and frontline workers, India’s fight against the global pandemic is underway with full vigour. We are steadily vaccinating substantial numbers of our nation’s population. Testing is also consistently high," the prime minister said, adding that at such a time there should be no space for carelessness or complacency.
A single mistake would have far-reaching impacts and weaken the fight to overcome Covid-19, Modi warned. The PM said that with the number of cases seeing a drop in the recent months, people may want to venture out. “However, everyone must remember — the threat of coronavirus is far from over. Many other nations are seeing surges in infections. The virus is also mutating," he added.
The prime minister further said that as ministers, their aim “should not be to instil fear" but to request people to keep taking all possible precautions so that India is able to move beyond this pandemic in the times to come.
He also expressed concern at the persistently high number of cases coming from Maharashtra and Kerala, sources said.
(with inputs from Payal Mehta in Delhi)