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Oj Corner
Special column
by OJ George

Cheque facility won't be withdrawn, says the govt
It is a matter of relief that the Union Government has clarified that cheque facility won't be withdrawn.

There were stray reports that an overenthusiastic government favaouring total digitalisation may go in for banning the cheque books.

It is gratifying to note that the government won't proceed with the reforms this way.
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Alphons Kannamthanam is Minister of State for Tourism (Independent charge)
Nirmala Sitharaman will be the country's new Defence Minister while Piyush Goyal will be the new Railways Minister after a cabinet reshuffle today that saw nine new ministers take oath.

Kerala's Alphons Kannamthanam will be Minister of State for Tourism( Independent charge).He would be Minister of State for IT as well.

Ms Sitharaman and Mr Goyal too took oath after being promoted to cabinet rank along with Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Nirmala Sitharaman will be the first woman Defence Minister of the country. Indira Gandhi had held the department when she was Prime Minister.

Arun Jaitley gives up Defence and will retain the Finance Ministry. He will however attend an international meeting of Defence Ministers in Japan, for which he leaves tonight.

The 58-year-old Ms Sitharaman will now be part of the top 5 or the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which also includes the Prime Minister, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minster Arun Jaitley.

Suresh Prabhu, who exits as Rail Minister, will be the new Commerce Minister, the department held by Ms Sitharaman. Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Minority Affairs Minister Muqtar Abbas Naqvi are expected to continue in their departments as Cabinet ministers.

Changes in PM Modi's cabinet and the portfolios assigned to new ministers will officially be announced shortly. PM Modi has left for China, where he will attend a summit of BRICS nation.

PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah met the new ministers this morning at the Prime Minister's residence. PM Modi reportedly told them to perform and "do a good job." His council of ministers will now have 76 ministers, up from 73. It can maximum have 81 members.

All the new members of PM Modi's team will be ministers of state. Among them is a former top cop, Mumbai Police chief and BJP lawmaker Satya Pal Singh and three retired bureaucrats - former diplomat Hardeep Puri, ex-IAS officer KJ Alphons and former Home Secretary RK Singh, also a lawmaker.
The other new ministers include BJP lawmaker from Bihar Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Shiv Pratap Shukla from Uttar Pradesh. Virendra Kumar from Madhya Pradesh, Ananthkumar Hegde from Karnataka and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from Rajasthan represent states where elections will be held soon.
Six ministers resigned to make way for the new faces and sources said they were largely pink-slipped over performance, as PM Modi looks to streamline government performance and efficiency ahead of the 2019 national elections when he will seek a second term.

Government sources said PM Modi based his selection of new members for his team on "4Ps - passion, proficiency, professional and political acumen", to deliver on his vision of "a new India". The new ministers will be strategically deployed in key ministries and will focus on last mile delivery directly to the people, they said.
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