With the economy showing signs of improvement, the government's austerity measures may come to an end on March 31, when the order to cut down expenditure in Ministries and departments expires.

If it happens, it is sure to bring smiles back on the faces of Ministers and senior bureaucrats, who have been travelling economy class on their official visits in the country or abroad.

The Office Memorandum, issued by the Finance Ministry in September last, was valid for the fiscal 2009-10 and would cease to be in operation from April 1 unless the Ministry issues a fresh order extending it.

The memorandum was aimed at cutting down expenditure in government departments in the wake of additional burden on the exchequer owing to the monsoon failure, galloping inflation and the economic crisis.

It said, “In view of the current fiscal situation and that arising out of insufficient rain in large parts of the country, and the consequent pressure on government's resources, there is need for further economy and rationalisation of expenditure.”

The order was applicable to every government department, but Ministers were specifically asked not to fly business class but undertake air journeys by economy class. The message was also sought to be driven home by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. He travelled by superfast Shatabdi trains on some of his visits.

Some of the Union Ministers had raised objections to the austerity drive but fell in line as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee insisted that the order be strictly followed.

Informed sources said that a few Ministers were learnt to have raised the issue again at a Cabinet meeting last month held to approve the Union budget but were told to wait till March-end. They were told that the government could re-think on austerity measures as the economic situation was showing signs of improvement and industrial growth was also picking up.

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