Below the line

| Updated on January 05, 2020 Published on January 05, 2020

Media-unfriendly minister

Union Minister of Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar’s reluctance to engage in questions and answers with a reporter did not go unnoticed. Javadekar was holding a press conference on the state of forests in the swanky Maharashtra Sadan. A reporter patiently waited for the conference to end and was hoping to talk to Javadekar on the sidelines.

Despite the reporter pleading multiple times for the chance to ask just one question (which was meant to be government’s stance on use of RO technology for water purification), the Minister shunned him and refused to answer any questions. He said he will not entertain any questions on the sidelines and that there has to be a certain ‘decorum’ that needs to be followed.

Wonder what ‘decorum’ he was talking about, especially when ministers are supposed to be answerable to the citizens and must be eager to field any questions that affect public policy.

Paid-up political

Paying for driving public opinion is not a new phenomenon. With the advent of Internet-based activism, political parties across the spectrum have been buying their way into Twitter trends and favourable online cacophony. But the recent protests against the NRC and the CAA have led to political parties seeking more diverse steps.

This time around, Instagram influencers, once associated with fashion and lifestyle posts, are also being approached to help mobilise positive opinion in favour of the move.

Navigating merger challenges

The three-way merger between Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India has entered the last lap and is well on course to meet the deadline of April 1. To ensure that there is smooth consolidation, PNB has now roped in former Managing Director and CEO of Oriental Bank of Commerce Animesh Chauhan — besides the bevy of consultants — as an advisor.

After all, Chauhan’s expertise and near 2.5-year experience at the helm of OBC could prove handy for PNB in facing the merger blues. The combined entity is going to emerge as a banking behemoth and create the country’s second largest bank — both in terms of business, at ₹18 lakh crore, and branch network with 11,437 branches.

Bringing in consultants and advisers alone may not be enough — there is a huge managerial deficit in the Indian PSBs to run behemoths efficiently. Unless that is tackled, the markets may not be all that enthused about PSB consolidation gains or reward rich valuations for them. Some food for thought for the policymakers in Department of Financial Services.

To Kejriwal, with love

It was a jam-packed room during the announcement of Swachh Survekshan league results, which prompted Hardeep Puri, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs to thank the media for its role in creating awareness about the importance of cleanliness in the country.

He also asked his staff to take a picture of journalists present at the press conference and tweet it. Puri also asked his staff send the picture to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to show the interest that cleanliness schemes are receiving.

Bizarre appointments

The Narendra Modi government is believed to have come up with a plan to place RSS activists in various ministries, including Railways, on a temporary basis. Curiously, some of these postings are in core function areas of the ministry, much beyond the ministers’ staff, as is the regular practice. Such appointments have kicked up storm in the past, too.

For instance, JNU offered an academic position to American-Indian Rajiv Malhotra, who runs a foundation which promises to help rich people to keep their wealth in their next life. Similarly, Vashi Mant Sharma, the mechanical engineering researcher who kicked up dust on Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz in his blog, was given a temporary position in the government’s INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship scheme.

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on January 05, 2020
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