Consult your predecessors about work, PM Modi’ advice for new cabinet ministers

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A day after the massive cabinet overhaul, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked new cabinet ministers to talk to the media with much precautions and if possible to avoid taking unnecessarily to them, government sources said on Thursday. The advice came after the controversies and spread of false information have increased over time.

“PM Modi mentioned the ministers who were dropped in the meeting of the council of ministers and praised them,” sources said.

“New ministers were asked to meet with them and seek guidance in their work. The PM also advised the new ministers to avoid giving unnecessary statements to the media,” they added.

After the cabinet reshuffle on wednesday, Twelve ministers, including the ones responsible for the Health Ministry tarred by the catastrophic surge in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, were asked to resign. The resignations were part of a major cabinet reshuffle and expansion ahead of seven state elections in 2022.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, 66, came in for particular criticism during the spike in infections in April and May blamed on new virus variants and lax restrictions.

Modi also expressed concern over the sight of crowded places with people not following Covid-19 norms, saying that there should be no space for carelessness or complacency and that a single mistake would have a far-reaching impact and may weaken the fight against the pandemic.

This is not a pleasant sight and it should instill a “sense of fear in us”, he said, referring to pictures and videos of crowded places doing the rounds.

People are seen without wearing masks or following the social distancing norms, he said, according to the sources.

India’s death rate for the COVID-19 has exploded from 1.6 lakh at the end of March to more than 4 lakh now. Many experts suspect the true toll is several times higher.

Three dozen new faces were inducted into the new cabinet, taking the number of ministers to 77 up from 52.

More than a dozen ministers are from states where elections are due such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat representing different castes and regional communities, a dominant factor in the country’s electoral politics.

But the expansion witnessed the shock exit of Ravi Shankar Prasad — minister for law and justice and information technology — and Prakash Javadekar, minister for information and broadcasting, environment and climate change.

Both Mr Prasad, 66, and Mr Javadekar, 70, were seen as faces of the BJP government, with some reports suggesting they will be tasked with party work ahead of the key state elections.

The Prime Minister has also directed his ministers to reach office on time and channelise all their energy into their ministerial work, saying their focus should be on helping the most deprived people.

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