Be careful: Sachin Tendulkar tests Covid positive
Sir — It was worrying to hear that the Indian cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar, who tested positive for Covid-19 last week and reportedly had mild symptoms, has now had to be hospitalized. The second wave of the deadly disease in India is not a myth, as much as people would like to believe it is.
The fact that celebrities like Tendulkar, who have all the resources in the world to take precautions, are falling sick proves that the virus spares no one. None can afford to be complacent. It is high time people stopped behaving as though the pandemic is over and started being as careful as they were at the beginning of the lockdown last year.
Turn for the worse
Sir — After the Union finance ministry announcement of sharp cuts in interest rates on small savings schemes for the quarter beginning April 1 drew sharp criticism, it quickly reversed its stand, with the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, claiming that the order was an “oversight” (“Turf war over small savings”, April 2). While one does not know whether it was an actual goof-up or a sudden change of heart in view of the ongoing assembly elections, one thing is for certain: politics is dangerously mixed with economics in India.
The embarrassing episode could have easily been avoided by the finance minister. In any case, small savings schemes have very low interest rates. In May, when the elections are over, the government should resist the temptation to reduce interest rates. While the market is doing well every now and then and the high monthly collection of the goods and services tax will give it a further boost — GST receipts of the Centre and state governments were set to cross Rs 1.2 trillion in March, the highest ever since the indirect tax reform in 2017 — a significant portion of household savings still goes into the savings schemes.
Sir — The Centre’s U-turn within a day on small savings interest rates appears to have been driven by electoral considerations. With assembly elections in progress, the proposed slash in interest rates would have had an adverse effect on the prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party. But did not the finance ministry’s mandarins know this before announcing the cuts? Nirmala Sitharaman’s attempt at damage control — she called the order an ‘oversight’ — is hard to believe. Can such an important decision be taken without the approval of the finance minister? Now ordinary citizens are sure that the axe will fall on their heads after the election or from the next quarter.
Hira Lal De,
Sir — On the first day of April — widely observed as All Fools’ Day — the Union finance minister announced that the Centre has scrapped the notified interest rates on small savings schemes with a tweet that said, “Orders issued by oversight shall be withdrawn”. The Congress asked whether it was indeed an ‘oversight’ or whether the withdrawal of the order was on account of “election driven ‘hindsight’”. Indeed, how can ‘oversight’ be the reason for such a serious matter?
Since the polls are still on, the gaffe would likely affect the results. When inflation is at about 6 per cent and is expected to rise, the BJP government is offering interest rates below 6 per cent, thus hitting savers and the middle class the hardest. The order was withdrawn as a face-saving measure, but as soon as the poll results are out, another such ‘order’ slashing interest rates is likely to be issued.
Does the BJP think Indians are fools? If the first announcement was indeed a mistake, then why are those responsible for messing up a matter of such importance not being penalized? One shudders to think about the other decisions of the Centre that have been detrimental to ordinary people, such as the new labour codes.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,
Sir — Indians’ hard-earned money is doomed under the BJP. The finance minister hastily withdrew the small savings schemes announcement because it would hurt the BJP’s chances in the assembly polls, but there is every likelihood that the interest rate cuts will be announced again after the polls.