Ministers and bureaucrats in the Narendra Modi government have no time to let their hair down this holiday season. There’s nothing official about it, but the unwritten directive from the top is “no leave”, says a central government official. “Holiday is the biggest luxury in this government… there’s no platform for such thoughts at all,” is how the official describes the mood in the corridors of power. According to another official, “there’s an air of doubt and caution after demonetiSation. Nobody wants to risk going on an overseas trip at least, in the fear of attracting scrutiny.’’
Holidays have hardly been part of the narrative ever since Modi took charge as Prime Minister in May 2014. In fact, in reply to a Right to Information query a few months ago about Modi’s leave, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said he had not taken a single day off so far. However, this year-end might mean a greater work load on both ministers and bureaucrats as a lot of deadlines are bunching up.
For instance, the PM had set year-end as a goalpost for the demonetisation pain to ease. Ministers are also learnt to have been told to create awareness about the benefits of digital transactions; some are going to their respective constituencies to drive home the message of cashless payments. Also, the committee headed by former chief economic adviser Shankar Acharya is slated to submit a report on the feasibility of changing the financial year — from April-March to January-December — at year-end. In addition, the Union Budget has been advanced by a month to February 1 this time, making it impossible for the government to take it easy. Add to that the many state elections, especially Uttar Pradesh, early 2017, which will keep the top leadership on the road, but the destination will be rallies and not sunny beaches. ()