Friday, July 18, 2014

Union Budget 2014 Review

The union budget means that the front pages of all newspapers would be blocked for budget coverage the day after and rightly so, unless Tapas Pal decides to address a rally again on the same day.

This is the time of the year when an official from the Ministry of Finance goes to that run down theatre props rental place and hires a briefcase for the Finance Minister to pose with at the end of the budget. To come closer to reality, that briefcase can well be replaced with a backpack, especially since it carries the heavy documents that burden the nation with fiscal deficits and debts.

Narendra Modi won the elections primarily on the promise of economic development. Therefore, we can safely say that the budget day will be the most important day of the year during his reign, unlike the previous Govt where the most important day of the year was of course Sonia Gandhi’s birthday.  

Out of the many schemes announced, the one that caught the attention was the Rs. 2000 Crore allocation for Sardar Patel’s statue. Well, by doing this, Modi basically fulfilled his pre poll promise of building more toilets. Toilets for birds that is.

But what about toilets for human beings? That's a huge issue isnt it? More Indians have access to mobile phones than closed toilets. And the recent Badaun rape highlighted it as a safety problem along with it already being a sanitation problem. Additionally, it is also a personal problem. Toilets are important not only from a hygeine point of view, but also from a peace of mind point of view. Your bathroom is the place where you get time for yourself. Away from your wife, children, parents. It is your 'Me' time. It is the time when you clock highest scores in Angry Birds or Quizup. It is when you are most creative. Why do you think Indians lag behind the West in discoveries and inventions. Archimedes discovered buoyancy and Archimedes principle when he was having a nice quiet bath in his bathroom. After which he went full retard. Do you think he would have discovered this idea if he were bathing in the open, spending all his energy to ensure no one steals his towel while he's bathing in the local lake? No.
Fate awaiting Sardar Patel
Staying with the Sardar Patel statue, it is going to be nearly double the height of The Statue of Liberty. Size matters. 

The cleanliness drive for the river Ganges has been allocated over 2000 crores. This is great because an estimated 3 billion litres of garbage and waste is released into the Ganges every day. There is so much trash in the river that it could well be renamed Bollywood. Or some narrow stretches of the river can be literally called the Sewage Canal. Good to see the Govt addressing this crisis that is the Ganges, but the fact remains that the first ever statement made on this issue was by the great Raj Kapoor very many decades back. He was such a visionary. Ahead of his time. He spoke about water pollution so many years back when he titled one of his movies Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Unfortunately, we could not see through his beautiful message. We learnt to appreciate transparency since that landmark movie. I think that is the reason why we want transparency in everything now, from BCCI to Governments. Good to see Raj Kapoor’s message being taken seriously by the authorities now. They also watched re runs of that movie before the budget, purely for research purposes.

Raj Kapoor displaying, err, his vision.
Women safety schemes in comparison got Rs. 150 Cr allocation. Because as we all know preventing crimes against women is not the Govt’s job. It is the job of parents who need to teach their boys how to behave with girls. It is the job of parents to ensure they don’t eat noodles, or use mobile phones. It is the job of parents to ensure girls are not dressed up which leads to them to ask for it. What the Govt is trying to tell us is that preventing crimes against women is a more moral problem than a regulatory issue. I say even the 150 Cr package is too high. Why not spend it in something more important, such as rehabilitation of Ram at Ayodhya.

The Govt announced number of new IIMs and IITs.  In terms of expansion of brand, they will now compete with the likes of ICFAI, IIPM and Amity. And just when students were losing motivation to pursue engineering, the new IIT in Goa should help.

Cigarettes will be costlier now. The finance minister said this decision was also taken from a health point of view. Will this make people smoke less? Has graphic warnings decreased the consumption of tobacco products? I don’t think these measures work. One way to make people smoke less would be if the warnings are more Indianised. Lets have a warning on packs which say ‘Cigarettes are manglik’, or ‘cigarettes hurt religious sentiment’. That should work better.

The budget sets aside Rs. 7600 crores to build 100 smart cities across India. I hope they do not follow the railway ministry model of project allocation which may see 99 smart cities coming up in Gujarat and one in the North East just to claim national integration in the next pre poll marketing blitz.

In summary, Modi’s budget promises big things but lacks clarity in how the targets are going to be achieved. Much like his election campaign. However the mood in the country is good and hopes are high. The budget is gone. The briefcase will be hired again next year. Enough of reporting on words like fiscal. Let us now happily go back to covering the rascals. Which surprisingly rhymes with someone mentioned at the start of the piece. if you say it quickly enough. .

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