After a date with Bollywood actress Chitrangada Singh and lyricist Javed Akhtar last year, finance ministry officials are set for a rendezvous with film actress Nandita Das and cricketer Gautam Gambhir.
The sixth Annual Retreat of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) would be held on April 5-7 at the National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) in Faridabad - the same place where, in 2010, actor Aamir Khan had said, “All is well”, as the economy was recovering from the shocks of the global economic meltdown.
Last year, the retreat was held at a five-star resort. Now, however, a slowing economy and the government’s drive to cut expenditure have cast a shadow on the budget for the event.
This time, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who attended the first such retreat in 2008, would be present. Other senior government dignitaries might include Comptroller & Auditor General Vinod Rai and Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar.
This year’s retreat would be different from previous ones. First, it would be held in April (during Parliament recess), against the tradition of holding it in the first fortnight of January (which provides ministry officials a break from the hectic Budget activity). “As there was work related to the Union Budget and the finance minister had to go for road shows in some countries in January, the retreat was postponed to April,” said a ministry official.
Second, the event may skip one of its most talked-about activities - a skit by directors and deputy directors. Typically, these skits, scripted, directed and presented by ministry officials, are spoofs on their bosses. This year, however, DEA Secretary Arvind Mayaram, for whom this would be the first such retreat, wants to give the event a twist. The skit may be replaced by individual performances from directors and deputy directors.
“Somebody may like to sing, somebody may do a stand-up act and somebody may play some instrument. It would be left to individual officers,” the official said.
During the retreat, DEA officials would also play a cricket match with NIFM trainees. Keeping in mind a hectic first part of the Budget session and more work lined up from April 22, the organisers have also arranged for yoga sessions.
The annual retreat was started six years ago by then DEA secretary D Subbarao to promote camaraderie among officials of various ranks and provide a break from office work.
Usually, a celebrity is invited to the event. However, owing to low funds, sometimes the ministry gives this a miss, as was the case in 2001.