Seeking divine help

| Updated on July 19, 2020


Until recently, Karnataka was winning the battle against Covid-19, but it now seems to have lost the plot, prompting the State Health Minister to say that “only God” can help.

The reason for this helplessness — a tug-of-war between bureaucrats and ministers on how the rising cases of Covid-19 should be controlled. Some bureaucrats, including the Bengaluru Civic Commissioner, managed to convince Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa to re-impose the lockdown.

But when the Municipal Official wanted the lockdown to be extended for another week, there was little enthusiasm. In fact, he was promptly shunted. This conflict has only resulted in the escalation of cases.

True or false?

For the last few days, a message that has been doing the rounds on WhatsApp says that the government may consider increasing dealer margins by 11 per cent for LPG distributors come August 1. A cause of worry for consumers indeed, but wait — margins are never given in percentage, but in fiscal terms. So is this a new formula that the government is adopting? No one knows yet.

Those pushing for a higher margin argue that consumers would hardly know the difference and dealers would easily make an extra buck. They also feel they need to be compensated for the extra cost incurred in santising their premises amid Covid-19.

Count the chickens, correctly

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan last week at an interaction on the Indian economy said that the ₹20-lakh-crore (Aatmanirbhar package) number often thrown about is “rubbish”.

Rajan said that the ₹20-lakh-crore consists of lot of accounting which does not count as fiscal deficit. For instance, remember the ₹7-lakh-crore liquidity infusion by the RBI will finance the deficit rather than being an additional spend itself, he noted.

“We have to be careful about the proper numbers,” he said. So how much additional spending is actually taking place, if you parse everything down, Rajan wondered.

What’s in a name?

One of the most widely selling beers in the world carries the name of one of the trinity of Indian gods, but its manufacturer, AB InBev, is wary of launching it in India — justifiably so, considering religious sentiments associated with the name. What is more interesting is that the beer-maker did not choose the name randomly.

According to the company, it is a tribute to Joseph Bramah, an Englishman who invented the draft pump valve. Still, others say that the master brew-maker named it after the Hindu god after one of his visits to India. Last week, an inter-faith coalition ran a campaign to rename the beer. The company, however, believes that the beer, an extremely popular one in Brazil, has very few Hindus in that country to force a name change.

Passing the buck

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had an effective way of dealing with most issues raised by Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal in their recent telephonic conversation following the India-US CEO virtual meet. When Goyal expressed concern over the US’ assumption that child labour was used in certain sectors in India, Ross offered to set up a meeting between the labour department officials of both countries. On the pending social security agreement, he said the US Social Security Administrator had to be consulted; and for dealing with the ban imposed on Indian shrimps, Ross said that he would facilitate a discussion between the US State Department and the Office of Marine Conservation and India’s Department of Fisheries and Environment and Forest.

If the US Commerce Secretary keeps shifting responsibilities, one wonders if the trade talks are needed at all!

Virtual headache

Virtual meetings are now proving cumbersome for some officials in the Finance Ministry. During the pre-Covid regime, meetings used to be planned in advance, with various factors in place. Now, with everything online, official meetings are called at short notice and that too very often. There is little reason to skip them.

There’s also the challenge of dealing with space — if the area needs to be closed and sanitised, officials have to quickly look for an alternative.

Our Bureau

Published on July 19, 2020

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