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Cabinet Reshuffle: Mansukh Mandaviya Replaces Harsh Vardhan as New Health Minister

Mandaviya was one of the biggest gainers in the cabinet expansion. The 49-year-old is famous for taking long padyatras to raise awareness about several issues such as girl’s education, menstruations, and the ills of substance abuse.

Mansukh Mandaviya with Prime Minitser Narendra Modi after being appointed as a Cabinet Minister (PTI Photo)

New Delhi:  Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, Mansukh Mandaviya was appointed as the Minister of Health and Family Welfare and the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers in the latest expansion of the union government. Mandaviya, was holding the independent charge of the shipping ministry and was MoS for the chemicals and fertilisers ministry was elevated as Cabinet minister.

His appointment comes at a time when India has just started to recover from the brutal second wave of Covid-19.

Mandaviya’s predecessor, Dr Harsh VBardhan had staunchly defended the government’s policy during the second wave but is believed to have been dropped from the cabinet due to his poor performance in the handling of the pandemic.

The 49-year-old was inducted into the Union government on July 5, 2016, when he was appointed as the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Chemicals and Fertilisers.

When the Modi government returned to power in 2019, he was made MoS for Chemicals and Fertilisers with an independent charge of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways.

Hailing from a farming family in the Bhavnagar district, he became the youngest MLA in Gujarat when he won from the Palitana constituency in 2002.

A postgraduate in political science from Bhavnagar University, Mandaviya is also known for organising long padyatras (foot marches), including two that he held as an MLA to spread awareness on girls’ education and the perils of addiction.

He was elected as a Rajya Sabha MP in 2012 before being re-elected in 2018.

As Union minister, he is credited with setting up over 5,100 Jan Aushadhi stores to provide more than 850 medicines at affordable rates and reducing the cost of heart stents and knee implants.

He was honoured by UNICEF for his contribution to the cause of women’s menstrual hygiene by using the chain of Jan Aushadhi Kendras to sell 10 crore sanitary pads made with oxo-biodegradable technology at a nominal price. The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers has three departments — Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals; Department of Fertilisers; and Department of Pharmaceuticals.

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Controlling prices of DAP and other non-urea fertilisers, implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidy to farmers, revival of sick urea plants, and reducing India’s dependence on imports of crop nutrients are some of the challenges that Mandaviya will have to focus on immediately.

The role of the pharmaceutical department has become more important as the pandemic continues to affect the health and economic activities in the country.

He will have his hands full in ensuring the continuous and uninterrupted supply of essential medicines, raw material, and medical devices. Expanding the network of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras in the country is another key focus area of the Modi government.

With inputs from PTI

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