Below the line

| Updated on June 14, 2020

Hug diplomacy

The virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, although the first of its kind, went smoothly with the two sides signing nine pacts. Morrison, however, expressed one regret. He had to miss out on the famous “Modi Hug” because there was no way it could be transmitted virtually. Morrison promised to the laughing Modi that the next time they meet in person, they would exchange hugs as well as samosas and khichdi. One can only hope that the this time comes soon when social distancing is a thing of the past. And while the leaders exchange hugs and food in a lockdown-free world, Indian professionals would not mind easier work visa rules!

Need to clear the air

The Finance Minister’s office did good by quickly tweeting about the good start that the much talked about ₹3-lakh crore Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme — framed to support MSMEs — has achieved. Public sector banks have already sanctioned loans worth ₹10,361.75 crore under the scheme, of which ₹3,892.78 crore has been disbursed, the tweet said. Here comes the twist.

No sooner was this tweeted that MSME associations went on TV crying foul, contending that the entire ₹3,892.78 crore has gone to support good and thriving units, while struggling MSMEs have so far drawn a blank. It looks like the FM’s office will have to, in its next tweet, give details as to how many struggling MSME units have actually benefited from the guarantee scheme, said an economy watcher.


With the number of Covid-19 cases going up, various ministries are having a really tough time. Protocol says in case anyone is found to be Covid-positive, then not only his/her workplace, but the entire floor has to be sanitised. Though people are encouraged to use the staircase, most employees still prefer using the lift. This has made life really difficult for officers in charge of administration. In many Central government offices, if 1-2 positive cases are recorded in one part, the specified floor, or a part of it, is sealed for two days. This is affecting coordination among various departments. Now, there is another problem. There are over 150 containment zones in Delhi and some others in neighbouring areas of other States. Though the government has clearly said that those residing in these zones should not attend the office, some still show up to work. One administrative in-charge of a Ministry in the Lutyen zone said that until and unless people exercise self-discipline, it is impossible to contain Covid.

How many farmers are there ?

Officials and politicians have always pegged the total number of farmers in the country as 14-14.5 crore. But the actual number could be much less, if Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is to be believed. While addressing a press conference in the capital last week, Tomar said despite all-out efforts, the government could not count more than 10.5 crore farmers in India. He would know. After all, the government through the Agriculture Ministry has been trying to reach out to farmers to provide ₹6,000 a year under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.

As candid as he gets

When SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar was recently confronted at the CII’s annual session with a question as to why SBI was “risk averse” when it came to supporting NBFCs, pat came the reply. “We are definitely supportive of NBFCs with whom bank has a satisfactory record. I will request Ajay Piramalji to confirm that!”, Kumar quipped.

Piramal — who has interests in financial services space — was a panelist at the same plenary. Kumar also hit a sixer out of the park when he advised critics, especially mediapersons, not to see banks’ parking ₹8 lakh crore with RBI reverse repo window as a sign of being “risk averse”.

One can only sympathise with SBI Chief, as ever since the Covid-19 induced lockdown was announced and equity markets tanked, it has been raining deposits at banks’ doorstep. What else can one do when there is ₹2-3 lakh crore of additional deposits is suddenly available and there is no economic activity happening in the country?

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on June 07, 2020

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