Now, that gap is zero or marginal on six schemes, but for five schemes, it is still at 5 bps to 82 bps. These include the Public Provident Fund (PPF), whose rates have been frozen at 7.1% for three years now and should have fetched 7.72% last October and 7.76% for this quarter as per the formula. Government mandarins indicate they are not inclined to hike the PPF rate as its returns are tax-free, unlike in the case of other schemes. If that is so, it must publicly restate its policy position. Yet, the returns on the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme, which are also tax-free, were hiked to 8% this quarter. Its only ostensible difference with the 1960s-origin PPF is it was launched by the current government to encourage savings for the girl child. The General Provident Fund rate for government employees has also been retained at 7.1%, but their dearness allowance has been hiked and a review of their benefits under the New Pension Scheme is underway. While PPF savings are capped at ₹1.5 lakh a year, this Budget raised the limits on a couple of small savings schemes to multiple times of that. It is perhaps no coincidence that the last time small savings rates were hiked across the board was in January 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha battle. That several States vote this year and the general election looms in 2024 may have influenced the latest hikes as a feel-good device. An even-handed and transparent policy approach rather than quinquennial bouts of relief for small savers, would inspire more confidence.