Below the line

| Updated on January 20, 2020 Published on January 20, 2020

Misquoted, says Piyush Goyal

When Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal pulled down Amazon at a public forum, by saying that the e-commerce company did not do India a great favour by announcing $1 billion fresh investment in the country, it sent confusing signals to the industry, especially foreign investors.

Making such observations when the company chief Jeff Bezos was touring India was something that could not be ignored and many started searching for deeper meanings. Some even speculated whether it would translate into further tightening of reins on foreign direct investment in the e-commerce sector.

However, less than 24 hours later the minister woke up to the folly of making statements that increased the anxiety of investors in an economy that was slowing down.

At another public event, he told journalists that he had been quoted out of context and the only thing he meant was that all should follow rules.

The minister’s attempt to redress the situation and defuse tension would be welcomed by investors, but avoiding such unnecessary incidents altogether would indeed be a much better option.

Poor pays, for rich

Government officials in Bihar were having a hard time spending the allocated funds for public health. They reached out to UNICEF officials posted in the State, asking them if they could help in utilising the money. The UNICEF officials said that they were more than happy to help, but if they rendered services, up to 18 per cent of the funds would go to Copenhagen, as fee for the services rendered.

“Imagine a whopping 18 per cent of the fund of India’s poorest State going to Copenhagen! This is the price one pays for not having experts in government on the ground,” quipped a government official.

‘High risk, low reward job’

A senior government official from the Health Ministry was visiting a district to take stock of issues such as progress on sanitisation, immunisation schemes, and so on. On realising that some data from that district was fudged, he posed a question to the District Collector, “Why do you sign on files if you know that the data you are sending is bogus?”

To this the Collector replied, “Sending forward the right data is a high risk, low reward job.”

Take them together

The government at the Centre seems to have realised the importance of taking States along for successful implementation of policies.

The latest to do so is the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan.

What was started by Piyush Goyal when he was Coal and Power Minister and continued by his successor, Power Minister RK Singh, is being adopted by Pradhan too, who will be conducting similar meetings with State ministers from the energy sector.

The agenda will be to expedite the setting up of natural gas distribution infrastructure, according to officials in the know.

Overworked staff

It is a know fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a workaholic. But distressed are the staff of his Cabinet ministers. “Aaj council of ministers meeting hai (Today there is a council of ministers meeting) which won’t get over before 10-11 pm, and after that the ministers will clear the files.

Before you blink it is next morning,” said a staff of one of the minister.

“I actually get to speak to the minister either in the corridors — when the minister is going or coming in — or when the minister is in his car to work on the next day’s engagements or schedule his meetings or tell him about the important calls,” the staff said.

Hope you are listening, Prime Minister, Sir!

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on January 20, 2020
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