Opinion

below the line

Our Bureaus | Updated on January 15, 2018

Lending a hand To plantation workers without bank accounts   -  AP

Master planner Arun Jaitley’s got some aces up his sleeve   -  Kamal Narang

Plantation woes

To help tea plantation owners facing a cash-crunch make payments to workers without bank accounts, the Centre has permitted West Bengal and Assam to route payments through district magistrates who will then pay cash to workers until such time as they have their own accounts.

Commerce ministry officials, however, say that reports coming in from West Bengal suggest that many DMs are refusing to be a part of the process. “It could be the West Bengal government’s way of asking the Centre to clean up its own mess,” the official added.

Good job!

PSBs have risen remarkably to the demonetisation challenge. “Outstanding!” is how the performance of SBI is rated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, according to senior finance ministry officials.

Spoiled for choice

At a time when all and sundry want to work for startups, does it pay to work for large IT companies? Going by those lining up in front of ATMs, it would certainly seem so. Employees of some of the largest IT exporters in Bengaluru were seen spending less time in queues than those working in smaller sized companies.

The reason? With many ATMs inside their campuses, many of them had a wide choice, unlike the others.

Right note on wrong notes

Demonetisation blues seem to have hit MPs from the ruling BJP as well, especially those representing rural constituencies. Last week, before the Lok Sabha session was to start, some BJP members were heard telling Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal that relaxing the ban on using demonetised notes to buy seeds was not enough during rabi sowing because “we need to buy fertiliser too”. Meghwal, who was born into a weaver’s family in Rajasthan, was seen nodding in sympathy, but clearly had little else to offer.

Caught off-guard

While the PM is his party’s poster boy, he is the Opposition’s favourite punching bag. Things have only got worse since the demonetisation announcement. The opposition parties led by the Congress continued with their demand that the House would function only if Modi was present and ready to take part in the debate.

So when he landed up in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday — which also happens to be the day the PMO answers questions — he took everyone by surprise, including Manmohan Singh, who was to speak on the issue. A senior BJP minister and member of the Rajya Sabha said, “They wanted the Prime Minister to be present, he came. But they were not prepared for the debate… even Dr Singh had to do additions to his otherwise shorter speech.”

Strategy plays

To take the ‘Modi in RS’ story further: It appears it was a well-planned move, suggested by Arun Jaitley. During their strategy meeting on Thursday, Jaitley is believed to have told the PM to come unannounced and take the Opposition by surprise. While the Government was prepared, the Opposition was pushed on its back foot.

Jaitley’s a good defender too. In response to eyebrows being raised at the silence of the RBI governor Urjit Patel and his low visibility, he told reporters: “...People perform in terms of policies. They are not to be judged by the number of times they appear on camera.” He then went on to tweet: ‘An unfair attack by Jairam Ramesh on the RBI governor. Must politicians attack those who can’t defend themselves in the same tone?’

Published on November 27, 2016

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