Elections have ended and the Narendra Modi government is back in corridors of power to fulfil its promises to the people of India. Today, the Modi Sarkar (government) 2.0, as it is being popularly called, took shape with the announcement of its council of ministers. Prime Minister Modi has yet again entrusted the responsibility of key cabinet portfolio of health to Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, a distinguished health professional-turned-politician, was earlier the Union Minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forests and Climate Change. He retains these portfolios in the new Cabinet. At the beginning of the previous Modi government, he was assigned to the health ministry but later removed within five months of taking the oath, following a controversy involving the removal of the Chief Vigilance Officer.
“Dr Vardhan returns to the health ministry on World Tobacco Day and even tweeted on the issue this morning: “Your life is not just your own, on #WorldNoTobaccoDay resolve to ensure your participation in the creation of a drug-free society. Be determined to quit intoxication Include exercise in your routine.”
In his five-month tenure, as health minister, Vardhan took tough steps against the massive tobacco industry in the country, by increasing taxes in the hope that consumption would reduce.
In 1997 as well, as a Health Minister in the Delhi government, he played a vital role in the Prohibition of Smoking and Non-Smokers Health Protection Act when it was passed in the Delhi assembly. This was one of the first anti-tobacco laws implemented by any state government in the country.
Subsequent to this the Supreme Court directed all states to replicate this law and twelve states enacted similar legislation. Dr Vardhan was also the first to implement the National Drug Policy, which was recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the ‘Delhi Model’ and adopted by many countries. He was also awarded the Director-General’s Polio Eradication Champion Award Commendation Medal by the World Health Organization in 1998.
Coincidently he returns to the health ministry on World Tobacco Day and even tweeted on the issue this morning: “Your life is not just your own, on #WorldNoTobaccoDay resolve to ensure your participation in the creation of a drug-free society. Be determined to quit intoxication Include exercise in your routine.”
“Dr Vardhan has a long and distinguished record of public service. The 64-year-old ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon stepped into public life in 1993, when he was elected to the Delhi Assembly from the Krishna Nagar constituency in east Delhi. This marked the beginning of a scintillating run in electoral politics”
He takes over from JP Nadda, who is no longer a part of the Cabinet and is being tipped as the likely next President of the Bharatiya Janata Party after Amit Shah joined the government as the new Home Minister. Under Nadda’s supervision as a health minister, India took the first big step towards making health for all a reality by introducing the government’s flagship scheme, Ayushman Bharat. Now it will be Dr Harsh Vardhan’s responsibility to fulfil an enormous task of making universal healthcare a reality and implementing several other ambitious objectives laid out for the health ministry, as reported by Health Issues India recently.
At the helm of the Ministry of Environment, Harsh Vardhan initiated the Green Good Deeds Movement in 2018. in which he appealed to organisations and people to take small positive actions to strengthen the cause of environmental protection. The Ministry also launched the National Clean Air Programme that aims to reduce toxic particulate matter by 2024.
In his tenure as science and technology minister, Vardhan even courted controversy by claiming that cosmologist Stephen Hawking had said the Vedas have a theory that is superior to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He had to face criticism from the scientific community for his remarks.
Dr Vardhan has a long and distinguished record of public service. The 64-year-old ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon stepped into public life in 1993, when he was elected to the Delhi Assembly from the Krishna Nagar constituency in east Delhi. This marked the beginning of a scintillating run in electoral politics, which saw him elected to the Delhi Assembly for four more successive terms in 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2013. In 2014, for the first time, he was elected as a Member of Parliament from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi. He was re-elected in this year’s polls with 54 percent of the vote share.
Fondly called ‘Doctor Saahab’, Dr Harsh Vardhan is known for his disarming simplicity in personal life and transparency at the workplace. He is also held in high esteem by officials for his hands-on style of functioning. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee once said, “Harsh Vardhan joined politics with the laudable objective of using his considerable medical knowledge and experience for serving the common man.” Now at the helm of the Union Health Ministry once more, Dr Vardhan has the opportunity to put this objective into action.