This index is unlikely to be splashed on the “pink pages”, it certainly does not equate with the Sensex or the many numbers over which economic experts split hairs or politicians unleash their fire. Yet in its own not-too-quiet way, the slowdown in the economy is brought down to earth, indeed to many a household by an Assocham study that estimates a 35-40 per cent slash in the corporate sector’s spending on gifts this Diwali.

True that would appear to be in contrast with huge advertisements in the newspapers on special Diwali sales, as well as photographs of festival-triggered traffic jams and crowded markets, but it would appear to be confirmed by fewer representatives of commercial firms driving around with cars laden with “goodies” for distribution to officials, wellwishers etc. “What happened this year” is a query many a homemaker has asked when the packs of traditional sweets and dry fruits came mainly from family and friends.

For while the restrictions on fireworks in the NCR may have been generally welcomed by the public (not that the “bangers” did not go off into the wee hours) and the air quality showed a distinct improvement over last year, fancy gifts at Diwali has become an integral part of the corporate culture: their “non-arrival” this year was widely noticed ~ amidst some disappointment a few might add. While the experts might advance a variety of reasons, the common man might finally see sense in the old Latin saying which translates into “you cannot give what you do not have” ~ the bleak Samvat 2074 trading might serve as another pointer to reality.

The Assocham study notes that “in sync with the low-key festivities due to slowdown concerns and pressure on their balance-sheets, corporate India is going rather lukewarm in Diwali gifts this year to its associates, networked partners, employees and other key personalities, slashing the budget by at least 35-40 per cent under this head.

The reduction in gifts is more for outside connects than employees who are more or less receiving their annual gesture from their employers. However, there has been certainly a downward impact on the bonus payments with several corporates reeling under debt and cutting costs in their overall operations. Besides, jerks arising out of demonetisation and the roll-out issues of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) too have affected the overall sentiment.”

The study which covered 7,509 companies in major and medium cities noted that “the FMCG companies which generally bet high on festive sales in the business of chocolates, cookies, sweets etc are reporting less than normal sales. Similar is the case with consumer durable firms. Even the festive sale of high-end smartphones seems to have taken a hit.” Some Diwali sweets to savour for the finance ministry?