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Newly appointed ministers take charge, spell out priorities

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New Delhi (Nov. 10, 2014): Setting new priorities like ensuring transparency in defence deals and safety and customer service in railways besides coping with change in the media scene marked the entry of new ministers in Defence, Railways and Information & Broadcasting today.

While Manohar Parrikar, Suresh Prabhu and Arun Jaitley took charge of the Defence, Railways and I&B ministries, J P Nadda, the new Health Minister, also assumed office, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out his first Cabinet expansion.

Apart from them, at least 12 others including D V Sadanand Gowda, Y S Chowdary, Jayant Sinha, Babul Supriyo, Harsh Vardhan, Vijay Sampla, V K Singh and Bandaru Dattatreya took charge of their new responsibilities.

While Parrikar made his priority clear by saying the defence acquisition process will be "transparent and fast", his predecessor Jaitley, who got I&B along with Finance and Corporate Affairs, said the media domain has expanded immensely and the ministry has to look at the changed information process scenario.

Former Goa Chief Minister Parrikar also echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make-in-India" slogan and said the country should manufacture "as much as possible" domestically.

Prabhu, a technocrat-turned-politician, said rail safety and customer service would be his priorities and feels that railway's potential has not been properly utilised.

Nadda took charge of ministry of Health, which has been taken away from Harsh Vardhan, who now has Science and Technology Earth Sciences portfolio. He refused to make any comments.

Taking over as Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha, son of senior BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, said the priority of the government will be job creation and inflation management.

"We are expecting the growth to pick up and be on the accelerating trajectory. Hopefully we will cross 6-6.5 per cent next year," he said.

Some ministers including Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Mahesh Sharma are expected to assume charge tomorrow.

Gowda, who has been shifted from Railways to Law Ministry, said there was a need to find a "new mechanism" to reduce the friction between the executive and the judiciary.

"Two issues are there. One is regarding electoral (reforms). The other with regard to the judiciary and executive as you rightly said. This is a very vast issue that has to be dealt with in such a manner that we should find out some mechanism to work out and also see that certain new line of thinking is there," he said.

Gowda also said that reducing the number of litigations by government agencies and weeding out obsolete laws would be his priority.

His predecessor Ravi Shankar Prasad said he is leaving the Ministry with a "supreme" sense of self-satisfaction for achieving a lot in his short stint as the Law Minister.

The strength of the Union Council of Ministers has now gone up from 45 to 66. Of these, 27 including Prime Minister are of Cabinet rank, 13 Ministers of State with independent charge and 26 Ministers of State.