Below the line

| Updated on December 16, 2019

Taking care of self first

Traffic gridlock in the capital has always been a topic of intense discussion. Finding ways to ease traffic on Delhi roads — which are incidentally some of the widest in the country — is a tough task for urban traffic planners, considering that the number of vehicles is only rising by the day.

While any thought that goes into improving the traffic congestion should be welcome, a suggestion put forward by a Parliamentary Standing Committee recently attracted a lot of sneers and jeers. Among other things, the lawmakers want the government to earmark a dedicated lane for them, so that they and other VIPs can zoom past without inconveniencing other road users. A noble thought indeed!

Missed opportunity

Despite the reformist credentials of the ruling BJP-led dispensation and the strong legislative activity one saw in the Winter Session, there was no sight of the much anticipated reforms in deposit insurance in the just-concluded Parliament session. The widely expected Bill to increase the deposit insurance limit — which currently stands at ₹1 lakh — did not see the light of the day!

This is an area that calls for urgent attention, and despite several cooperative banks (including PMC Bank) embroiled in controversy, there is no respite for the hapless bank depositors of this country.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman may not want to discuss with hacks as to where the economy stands or where the inflation trajectory is headed, but she can at least introspect why the government is not able to undertake easier tasks, such as deposit insurance reforms. Time for her to make better reform choices, rather than pander to corporates to deliver the goods for the economy, say the critics.

On different tracks

While the Drug Controller General of India, under the Ministry of Health, is fighting tooth and nail to stop the functioning of online pharmacies, the Ministry of Electronics and IT has tied-up with a Gurugram-based e-pharmacy 1Mg to facilitate the supply of essential medicines to remote areas, through common service centres.

It is strange how two entities are taking a contradictory stand on issue of regulation. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has deliberately delayed bringing out a notification to regulate online pharmacies, a long-pending industry demand of responsible e-pharmacy players.

A case against divestment

The Centre’s decision to divest its entire stake in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd has many stakeholders up in arms. While some say it is imprudent to go for the short-term gain of meeting the fiscal deficit by selling a public sector undertaking (PSU), others say that the government should not sell stake in strategic sector PSUs at all. A press conference organised by PSU officers’ associations at Constitution Club, New Delhi saw similar opinions being voiced.

But the most compelling argument for not selling a PSU was evident at an adjacent hall within the Constitution Club, where a badminton tournament for Members of Parliament, wholly sponsored by BPCL, was being held. Officers opposing the disinvestment quipped, if BPCL is privatised how can such events be sponsored?

Status quo on retirement age

Whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about reforms in civil service, a buzz that gathers momentum is that the government will reduce the retirement age to below 60 for its employees. Responding to one such query was Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Development of North-Eastern Region; and MoS for PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space.

Putting to rest all rumours, Singh in a written reply to a query in the Rajya Sabha said: “Presently, there is no proposal in the government to reduce the retirement age of government employees below 60 years.” He added: “There is no such proposal of Golden Voluntary Retirement Scheme under consideration of the government.”

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on December 16, 2019

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