New Delhi: Gujarat MP Mansukh Mandaviya, one of the biggest gainers in the Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will now be in charge of health and family welfare as well as chemicals and fertilisers ministries.
Earlier on Wednesday, he was elevated to Cabinet rank from minister of state (MoS). He was holding the independent charge of shipping ministry and was MoS for the chemicals and fertilisers ministry.
His elevation assumes significance amid the continuing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
He succeeds Harsh Vardhan, who has been dropped from the Council of Ministers despite being one of the strongest defenders of government policies during the coronavirus crisis.
Mandaviya, a BJP leader from Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, has been an important young face in the Narendra Modi government at the Centre since 2016.
He was first inducted in the Union cabinet as Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Chemicals and Fertilisers on July 5, 2016. On May 30, 2019, he was again sworn in as MoS for Chemicals and Fertilisers with an independent charge of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.
Born into a farming family in Hanol village in Bhavnagar district on July 1, 1972, Mandaviya was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 and reelected in 2018.
Earlier, he had served as chairman of the Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Limited.
He started his political journey as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the RSS’ student wing, before joining the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP.
Mandaviya became the youngest MLA in Gujarat in 2002 when he was elected from Palitana constituency.
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.
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.
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 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.