New science minister Harsh Vardhan

New science minister Harsh Vardhan

Government of India

Polio pioneer tapped to breathe life into India's science ministry

NEW DELHI—Science now has a more potent voice in India’s government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday appointed physician Harsh Vardhan as minister for science and technology and earth sciences and elevated him to full Cabinet rank.

Vardhan, 59, is known for his pioneering role in the eradication of polio from India, which earlier this year was declared free of wild poliovirus. A seasoned politician and outspoken critic of tobacco use, Vardhan had served as India’s health minister since Modi formed his government in May. One of his main tasks during in his stint at the health ministry was to promote Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine; just last week he presided over a world conference on Ayurveda here.

Vardhan’s most pressing task may be to revitalize the science ministry, which languished in the last few years of the previous government. Speaking with the media today, Vardhan pledged “to consolidate the bridge between science and society.” Among his first priorities, he said, are strengthening the science of monsoon forecasting and more effectively deploying biotechnology in the health sector.

He will be assisted by a newly appointed junior minister, Y. S. Choudhary, an industrialist who made a fortune selling home appliances.