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Wear masks like we wear shoes, PM Modi said. Here are 10 times his ministers ignored request

When India hit the 1 billion vaccine doses mark, PM Modi urged people to continue to mask up no matter their inoculation status. But many ministers don't seem to be listening.

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New Delhi: In his address to the nation last week, a day after India had achieved the milestone of administering one billion Covid vaccine doses, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parting message was about the need to continue using masks.

“It is my request that we have to celebrate our festivals with utmost caution. And as far as masks are concerned, now that designer masks are also there, we have to wear masks in the same way as we wear shoes when we step out,” he had said.

Despite the PM’s cajoling, however, there have been countless times before and after his speech when his own government’s ministers have chosen to step out and be photographed without a face cover, in Delhi and elsewhere. ThePrint has compiled a list of 10 such instances.

The list leaves out occasions when the minister is delivering an address, lighting the ceremonial lamp, or meeting a foreign dignitary. It also features one person only once, regardless of the number of times s/he has been seen in public without a mask.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, for example, have been rarely photographed without a mask. Home Minister Amit Shah, meanwhile, is almost never seen with a mask, but he appears only once in the list

The list also leaves out the top three constitutional posts of the President, Vice President and Prime Minister.

A government spokesperson responded to say all ministers take meticulous care to keep their masks on in public. But in public life, there may be occasional exigencies when they may have no option but to remove the masks briefly.

Rajnath Singh, 25 October

On 25 October, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attended an Ambassadors’ Round Table in New Delhi. The photos tweeted by Singh showed him as the only person without a mask in a room full of men and women wearing them; some of them uniformed. During the meeting, Singh extended an invitation to foreign defence companies to participate in Asia’s largest defence exhibition, to be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, next year.

Amit Shah, 24 October

Home Minister Shah’s recent Kashmir trip saw him interact very closely with uniformed personnel and civilians in the Valley. Shah even got his bulletproof shield removed before delivering a public address in Srinagar. But that is not the only thing he removed. Throughout his time in the BSF bunker, paying obeisance at the Kheer Bhawani temple and during interactions with various citizens’ groups, both Shah and L-G Manoj Sinha were without masks, even though most officials around them were masked up.

Amit Shah in Kashmir's Kheer Bhawani temple. | PBI Photo
Amit Shah at Kashmir’s Kheer Bhawani temple. | PIB Photo

Dr L. Murugan, 22 October

Dr L. Murugan, Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, as well as Information and Broadcasting, visited a vaccination centre at YSR Health Clinic, in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, on 22 October. In several of the official photos, Murugan is without a mask, as are the people crowding around him.

Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Information and Broadcasting, Dr. L. Murugan without a mask | PIB photo
Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Information and Broadcasting, Dr. L. Murugan without a mask | PIB photo

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, 20 October

Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on 20 October visited flood-affected areas of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, adjacent to Uttarakhand. He visited relief camps and also distributed relief material to flood-affected people. Photos put out by his office and by the PIB show him riding a raft maskless, accompanied by another person without a mask.

Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in flood-affected areas of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. | PIB Photo
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in flood-affected areas of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. | PIB Photo

Dr Jitendra Singh, 20 October

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh, on 20 October, reviewed the progress of a special campaign launched on 2 October for the disposal of pendency in government of India in nine departments/ministries under his charge. The photos put out by the Press Information Bureau show him as one of only two people without a mask in a room full of civil servants.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, 18 October

Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar visited the CDAC Centre in Bengaluru on 18 October to Launch INDUS (Innovation Development Upskilling) IoT Kit — a single board Internet of Things development platform. Photos put out by the PIB showed Chandrasekhar as one of the very few people in the conference room who was without a face mask.

Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrashekhar at the CDAC Centre in Bengaluru on 18 October. | PIB release
Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar at the CDAC Centre in Bengaluru on 18 October. | PIB release

Darshana Vikram Jardosh, 18 October

A delegation from the Handlooms Expert Committee met Minister of State for Textiles Darshana Vikram Jardosh in her office on 18 October. Only one person in the official photo of the meeting is wearing a mask; that person is not the minister.

Minister of State for Textiles and Railways, Darshana Vikram Jardosh, in her office on 18 October. | PIB photo
Minister of State for Textiles and Railways, Darshana Vikram Jardosh, in her office on 18 October. | PIB photo

Mansukh Mandaviya and Hardeep Singh Puri, 16 October

On 16 October, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Union Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs and Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri launched an audiovisual song on India’s vaccination drive. Photos from the event have just one person with his mask on, even as the two ministers look on, both unmasked. Interestingly, Mandaviya’s ministry has been consistent in its messaging that the second wave of Covid is not over yet, and therefore, masks should be worn strictly at all times.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri at the launch of an audiovisual song on India's vaccination drive. | ANI
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri at the launch of an audiovisual song on India’s vaccination drive. | ANI

Devusinh Chauhan, 14 October

Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan was present at the launch of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for Telecom and Networking Products on 14 October. Official photos of the event put out by the PIB show the minister and many others without masks.

Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan at the launch of the Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Telecom and Networking Products. | PIB Photo
Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan at the launch of the Production Linked Incentive Scheme for Telecom and Networking Products. | PIB Photo

Anurag Thakur, 12 October 

Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Singh Thakur, met the Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat on 12 October. Neither wore masks in the photos released.

Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports, Shri Anurag Singh Thakur with the Governor of Gujarat, Shri Acharya Devvra. | PIB Photo
Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur with Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat. | PIB Photo

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