Off the record

A sweet secret

A halwa party is to be hosted by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for his officials on February 19, which will mark the beginning of printing budget documents in secrecy. Halwa is prepared in a big kadhai (vessel) in the presence of the minister who then serves to the officials. It is a tradition to cheer up the 100 North Block officials and support staff who will remain cut off from their families till budget presentation on February 29. They are not even allowed to contact their near and dear ones through phone or any other form of communication, like email. Only very senior officials in the Finance Ministry are permitted to go home.

The printing press is located in the basement of the North Block building, securely guarded to prevent any unauthorised leak. The Annual Budget is prepared by the Budget Division of Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) headed by the Joint Secretary (Budget) of the Ministry of Finance.
Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Publicity move

Ahead of the Budget session of parliament, the BJP has started publicising development initiatives and pro-poor outreach schemes to challenge perceptions questioning the performance of the 18-month-old Narendra Modi government. To that end, Power Minister Piyush Goyal had a surprise interaction with media at the party's Ashoka Road headquarters on Friday. Though reporters anticipated that he would talk about politics – since he is also in-charge of poll bound Tamil Nadu – Goyal, instead, shared with media the already known details on electrification of “dark villages”.

PM Narendra Modi had pro-mised electrification of 18,452 villages, which have been devoid of power since independence, during his August 15 speech last year. Modi has tasked his ministers to publicise the government's big ticket decisions to counter Opposition propaganda that the NDA is doing little to realise ‘acche din.’
Dalip Singh, New Delhi

Cycling club

Taking a cue from senior advocate and MP K T S Tulsi, who uses cycle to travel to parliament and court, the SC Bar Association lawyers have started a cycling club to highlight its benefit to authorities and to promote its enjoyment in the fraternity. Association secretary Gourav Bhatia has issued a circular inviting members to a common platform to understand the pros and cons of pedalling. To address any technical or other issues, it has created an e-mail for the lawyers to send their queries. Kudos to the SCBA for such a move!

Lawyers, however, face practical problems in using cycles as they have to carry files and books. But no one could doubt the intention of Bhatia, who would otherwise also be keen in promoting the bicycle, the election symbol of Samajwadi Party, to which he belongs to. The ruling party in Uttar Pradesh is to face election next year.
Ashish Tripathi, New Delhi

Unhappy lot

The Congress may have been targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for supping up to the corporate sector and ignoring the poor. But, much to their surprise, party leaders figured out that several big industrialists too were unhappy with their “one time mascot’s” inability to deliver reforms, particularly with regard to the banking sector. Many corporate leaders also have little faith in the financial data put out by the government. However, several others still have a strong belief that Modi can work some magic. No wonder then, Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at Modi recently saying industrialists who met him were complaining against the PM.
Sagar Kulkarni, New Delhi

Dosa economy

RBI chief Raghuram Rajan definitely loves his dosas, which he used even to underline his argument that inflation is the silent killer of economy – and not the interest rates fixed by his team. At a recent talk, he said: “Let us say a pensioner wants to buy dosas and at the beginning of the period, they cost Rs 50 per dosa. Let us say he has savings of Rs 1,00,000. He could buy 2,000 dosas with the money today, but he wants more by investing. At 10 per cent interest, he gets Rs 10,000 after one year plus his principal. With dosas having gone up by 10 per cent to Rs 55, he can buy 182 dosas approximately with the Rs 10,000 interest. At 8 per cent interest, he gets Rs 8,000. With dosas having gone up by 5.5 per cent, each dosa costs Rs 52.75, he can now buy only 152 dosas approximately.

“In the high inflation period, it was worth 1,818 dosas; in the low inflation period, it is worth 1,896 dosas. So in the high inflation period, principal plus interest are worth 2,000 dosas together, while in the low infla-tion period it is worth 2,048 dosas. He is about 2.5 per cent better off in the low inflation period in terms of dosas!”
SI, New Delhi

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