India railways chief tapped as temporary finance minister

India’s minister for railways and coal, Piyush Goyal, will take temporarily take charge of the finance ministry, while the incumbent minister, Arun Jaitley, recovers from a kidney transplant.

Mr Jaitley, a veteran lawyer who is one of Prime Minister Modi’s most trusted allies and advisers, underwent a kidney transplant on Monday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

The government hospital said in a brief statement that the transplant had been successful, and that Mr Jaitley and his donor – whose identity was not disclosed – were recovering well.

In a statement issued late Monday night, the government said that Mr Goyal would temporarily hold the finance ministry portfolio “during the period of indisposition” of Mr Jaitley, who had been working from home for several weeks while awaiting the operation.

Mr Goyal had previously served as minister for power, overseeing efforts to restore highly-indebted utilities to health.

In the same statement, it was also announced that Mr Modi has replaced his controversial minister of information and broadcasting, Smriti Irani, a former soap opera star, who recently upset journalists with plans to penalise them for producing “fake news.”

Senior editors complained her new rules would facilitate the punishment of mainstream journalists who are critical in their coverage of government, while the main purveyors of blatantly false information – often individuals with political links – would be untouched.

Ms Irani will be replaced as information and broadcasting minister by Col. Rajyavardhan Singh, though she will continue to hold a portfolio as minister for textiles.

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