The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinha debut, Shotgun style

New Delhi, Oct. 22: Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha ‘rhymed’ his way through his first press conference and left all the serious answering to his bureaucrats. Sometimes though the ‘rhymes’ did not make much sense, that did not dampen his enthusiasm.

For instance, Sinha said: “Ayurveda is much expected and respected.” For the “protection, promotion and projection” of Ayurveda, his ministry has decided to organise a World Ayurveda Congress in Delhi next month. “The future is bright and we all would try.”

Then, to a question on male contraception, he quipped: “What is the great hurry and worry'”

Sinha did not seem to be in a “great hurry” to learn the basic skills of his trade. To every question on the subject of the press conference — Ayurveda — Sinha would cast a sideways glance at the bureaucrats and said: “Why don’t you answer the question'” While the bureaucrats explained, Sinha energetically nodded his head and occasionally chipped in with sentence or two.

On how his ministry planned to check spurious Ayurveda drugs, the health minister came up with a response that puzzled most. “The rise in spurious Ayurveda products shows how popular it is. This is the reason why it is being misused.”

Somebody asked about the increasing volume of research on Ayurveda in the West. Again Sinha took refuge in ‘witticism’. “All that the West has done is to change pronunciations and spellings — like change Ayurved to Ayurveda and Yog to Yoga.”

He left even outright political questions to the bureaucrats. Why do most of the non-government organisations associated with the world Ayurveda conference have RSS leanings' The minister smiled his Shotgun smile while his juniors started reeling out explanations.

Nothing fazed Sinha. Just like he had breezily ignored all the criticism about his globe trotting and massive renovation plans in the ministry headquarters, he sat through the conference with an indulgent look — not really bothered about his impression as health minister.

Every time a question not related to Ayurveda came his way, Sinha held his head in his hands and said: “Mera Ayurveda conference ka kya hoga' (What will happen to my Ayurveda conference')” There was polite laughter all around as Sinha started munching a biscuit and sipping tea.

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