Below the line

Our Bureau | Updated on September 26, 2019

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Costly afterthought

Now, several economy watchers are wondering why the Finance Minister and her team took so long to realise that their Budget proposals, especially surcharge on foreign institutional investors (FIIs), were ill-conceived and not well thought through.

Had Friday’s set of measures to re-boot the economy been taken up, say, within a fortnight of the Budget presentation, much of the stock market bloodbath could have been avoided, they said. The afterthought to bring corrective measures has come after the FPIs have so far pulled out nearly ₹25,000 crore since the Budget and the market capitalisation of companies are down by a couple of lakhs of crore. Taxing the FPIs and then withdrawing the surcharge has clearly proved a costly gambit. At least the decision of roll back has finally been taken, say several capital market observers — better late than never.

Karti’s wit

You must give it to former finance minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram for his dry sense of humour even at a time when his father’s fate was going to be decided by the CBI special court. Sitting at the back of the CBI courtroom and waiting for the judge to pronounce orders in the case, a hack asked about the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED’s) allegations that Karti’s friends had bequeathed their companies’ wills to his daughter, who recently turned 18 and is studying Education Policy in University of Cambridge. Karti claimed that there were no such wills (even as ED claims to have seized the said wills from Karti's Chennai home). “The last I heard was that the Queen of England had relinquished some property in her (Karti’s daughter) name,” he quipped.

Strange coincidence this?

This may sound strange, but is the truth. The CBI headquarters building in Lodhi Road where former finance minister P Chidambaram spent Wednesday night soon after being arrested by the CBI is the one whose inauguration function he had participated in 2011 as the then Union Home Minister.

Trade talks: no diplomacy please

If one has been wondering how the Commerce Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs coordinate with each other when tough calls need to be taken in India’s on-going trade negotiations, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal may provide some clue. At a recent seminar on trade in New Delhi, Goyal pointed out that in trade negotiations one needed to be firm and frank, say things as they needed to be said and not be too high on diplomacy. Goyal added that he therefore did not read any papers that came from the MEA when he was talking trade with his counterparts.

This remark amused many present at the event, but not a group of officials from the MEA. The Minister was quick to apologise, and his message was simple: “We tend to get caught in niceties and then we end up achieving nothing.” Wonder what the MEA’s take will be on this.

Farmers’ count

How many farmers are there in India? According to official data available with the government, the total number of farmers in the country is around 14.5 crore.

If that is the case, how can 16.6 crore farmers register for the NDA government’s flagship crop insurance scheme — Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) — as claimed by Bihar State unit of the BJP in a digital campaign on Twitter?

Significantly, as per the official records, only 30 per cent of farmers in the country have opted for PMFBY.

When pointed out to a senior official in the Agriculture Ministry, he said the BJP State unit may have added all the PMFBY policies since the inception of the scheme in 2016.

Like pooling the votes garnered by the BJP in all Lok Sabha elections since its formation in the 1980s, and saying that so many people have voted for the party?

Published on August 26, 2019

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