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New Ministers, New Challenges

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Last week's Cabinet reshuffle evoked a mixed response — some smiles, some frowns. Seven ministers were dropped, eight inducted and three elevated. The new ministers have their hands full with barely two weeks to go before the monsoon session of Parliament begins on 1 August. BW takes a look at the issues that need immediate attention of the new ministers and their policy impact.

Jairam Ramesh, Union Cabinet Minister, Rural Development
The former environment minister has a budget of Rs 77,000 crore to boost the rural economy. He has to shepherd the Land Acquisition Amendment Act and the National Rural Livelihood Mission. He has five months to complete two censuses — below poverty line (BPL) and caste. Besides, of course, reviewing the MNREGA.

Beni Prasad Verma, Union Cabinet Minister, Steel
Verma's first priority is to recast the National Steel Policy. The last policy was unveiled in 2005. He will have to help get clearance for about a dozen iron-ore projects, stalled by the environment ministry.

Dinesh Trivedi: Union Cabinet Minister, Railways
Trivedi will have to fulfil promises made by his predecessor Mamata Banerjee in her two railway budgets. Modernisation of railways, lowering freight tariff and weaning away passengers from airlines will also be on top of his agenda. The minister has said safety will be his first priority.

Jayanthi Natarajan, Union Minister of State (independent charge), Environment and Forests
The former Congress spokesperson will have to walk the tight rope of maintaining her high-profile predecessor's policy while not stalling projects. Already, many applications from companies are pending with the ministry.

Salman Khursheed, Union Cabinet Minister, Law and Justice with additional charge of Minority Affairs
Khursheed will have to ensure that the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 is adopted and the Bill on increasing the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 is passed in the monsoon session. The other priority is to set up a National Judicial Commission.

M. Veerappa Moily, Union Cabinet Minister, Corporate Affairs
The Companies Bill will test the mettle of the former law minister. He is also expected to  strengthen the Serious Fraud Investigation Office and re-examine the crosshold- ings of telecos that got 2G spectrum in 2008.

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN, Union Minister of State (independent charge), Environment and Forests; SALMAN KHURSHEED, Union Cabinet Minister, Law and Justice with additional charge of Minority Affairs (Bloomberg); M. VEERAPPA MOILY, Union Cabinet Minister, Corporate Affairs (ABP)

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 25-07-2011)