Nirmala Sitharaman, who earlier held the Commerce and Industries portfolio in the Narendra Modi-led government, on Thursday took charge as the country’s new defence minister. She was welcomed by outgoing defence minister Arun Jaitley. Sitharaman was given charge of the ministry after the reshuffle on Sunday where she was elevated to cabinet rank. She is the country’s first full-time woman defence minister. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi also held the defence portfolio but as additional charge.
On her first day in office, she approved financial assistance for military veterans. Sitharaman released a grant of more than Rs 13 crore for 8,685 ex-servicemen, widows and dependents from the Armed Forces Flag Day fund.
“I thank PM Modi for having vested confidence in me and giving me such a critical portfolio,” news agency ANI quoted Sitharaman as saying. She added that the armed forces are her first priority. “Armed forces’ families are a priority,” said Sitharaman as she stressed on ensuring taking care of soldiers.
Seema Dundia, DIG, RAF, said it was a “positive development” that Sitharaman was accorded the portfolio. “Being a woman defence minister doesn’t mean she is less than any of her counterparts; its a welcome change,” she said.
Endorsing Dundia’s view, Padma Bandyopadhyay, first woman Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force, said, “I am extremely happy and proud that she Sitharaman has broken the glass ceiling. She proved herself at every point and promoted. She’ll surely bring laurels to cabinet and the country.”
The ministry ceased to have a full-time minister when Manohar Parrikar took charge of Goa as the chief minister after the BJP was able to form a coalition government earlier this year. The charge then given to Jaitley who also handled the finance and corporate affairs portfolio.