February 18, 2020
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A page on the quirks in public administration

Dr Data
What does North Block do when any of its clever initiatives draws universal flak? It digs out figures to prove that two plus two indeed makes five! Faced with severe middle-class rejection after it withdrew I-T exemption benefits (section 88) in the Budget, the finance ministry is distributing figures to prove that halving exemption benefit to only 10 per cent of the income has hit only 4 million people in the Rs 1.5-5 lakh-a-year bracket. The same figures also suggest that only 76,000 people have Rs 10 lakh plus income, a claim dismissed by independent think-tanks which believe the maximum evasion comes from within the existing tax base. Revenue secretary S. Narayan must be an unhappy man. What happens to his efforts to zero in on high net-worth individuals?

Number crunchers
Numerology is the latest fad these days, ask the tribe of astrologers who are madly diversifying. And it's not only corporates which are hung on a certain number (understandable, since business success in India actually used to be a matter of luck till very recently). Amid political uncertainty, our leaders are now hopping on to the numero wagon. Civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain is one of them. All his phone numbers end with 786, an auspicious number for followers of Islam.

Electoral Neon Boards
Guess what the advertising agencies strapped for business are queueing up for? Not corporates who have no money these days, but state governments and public sector companies. Smug with municipal electoral success, Sheila Dixit has already started planning for the Delhi assembly elections which is two years away. She has reportedly hired marketing guru Shunu Sen as image consultant. Several agencies have also been asked to make presentations for the campaign, centring on the concept of bhagidari or partnership that has been the Delhi government's signature tune for sometime now, one that's evidently had the electorate dancing to it.

Those in the know
The art of business lobbying has made a comeback. Unlike the past, the core of the government today is interested not in the stock (as in debt), but flow of resources maintained by lobbying. And the worse the state of the economy, the better the success rate of lobbying (and hence the flow). This was proved by the exporter associations before the exim policy. Not only did they know the shape of the future, they were giving their reactions almost at the same time the policy was being dissected by experts!
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