Below the line

| Updated on June 28, 2020

Cash woes for smaller ministries

Central Ministries/Departments with smaller allocations are likely to face tough times. An office memorandum by the Finance Ministry places them in a category where their quarterly expenditure has been capped at 15 per cent and monthly at 5 per cent. Since the complete/partial lockdowns during the last three months and curbs on a number of activities, these smaller ministries could not spend to plan.

The new instruction says unspent money cannot be automatically carried forward to the next month or quarter. These ministries/departments will lose a part of their allocation, which anyway is on the lower side when compared to the larger ministries.

Taking away any part will mean a lesser amount to spend this fiscal. According to officials, such a move could affect scholarships/grants for special research, etc. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has made it clear that even in the Supplementary Demands for Grants, an instrument to seek approval for additional expenditure from Parliament, fresh demand for cash will not be entertained.

When Covid struck DFS

The top brass of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) have too many problems on hand. In these Covid times they not only have to look for solutions to treat the ills of the banking sector like a surge in NPAs, failing cooperative banks, liquidity crunch in the system and faltering NBFCs, but also tackle the the pandemic within their own office and among their own staff.

So many officers and staff of DFS tested positive for Covid this past week that the DFS Secretary approved the closure of the entire office premises on Thursday. To mitigate any risk of virus spread, the entire DFS office in the Capital was subjected to “deep cleaning” (sanitisation).

Although DFS may have been sanitised, its officers have been asked to conduct work through digital mode, via email, etc.

Chinese or Japanese?

The Commerce and Industry Ministry issued a release last week refuting reports alleging that the website of the Department for Promotion of Investments and Internal Trade (DPIIT) had been hacked by the Chinese. It said the site had been placed on the routine maintenance mode and the characters that flashed on the site were that of the Japanese company that created the site long ago.

However, many who had seen the DPIIT website maintained that the letters were actually Chinese. The word that was passed off as a Japanese logo meant ‘mediate’ in Chinese, they said. While those who doubt the government’s explanation may be wrong, the DPIIT should at least explain why it asked a Japanese company to create its website when India has the technical resources and capability to do it.

Son of the soil

The Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, RK Singh, misses no opportunity to reflect his rustic side. The Lok Sabha MP is popular in his constituency for maintaining a fine balance between being a polished bureaucrat and a grounded politician. While explaining the plight of power distribution companies, Singh said that they have been highlighting the challenge before them in improving their financial health. He also minced no words when he said that some State governments do not want to give cash subsidy to the needy and instead pass that burden on to electricity consumers.

Fintech players irked

Recently, the National Payment Corporation of India clarified that Google Pay is an authorised third-party app provider and all transactions made through such app providers are protected. However, some fintech players felt this almost sounded like NPCI endorsing one particular payment app. A senior executive of a fintech company said that NPCI should not be responding or giving clarifications regarding rumours related to an individual app and that this move was unprecedented.

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on June 29, 2020

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