Sunday, March 18, 2012

That's all, Your honour!: Mar.11-17


1. The Railways minister of India, Mr. Dinesh Trivedi presented his maided railway budget last week. After he presented the budget, he was asked to resign by his party chief!! Such kind of bizarre events can happen only here! So what exactly happened? 

Dinesh Trivedi increased rail fares. It is the first time in the 8 years rule of UPA that the fares have been increased. 2 paise/km increase for lower class. 5 paise/km increase for sleeper class. 10 paise/km increase for 3rd AC. 15 paise/km increase for 2nd AC. 30 paise/km increase for 1st AC. That is what has been proposed in this budget. And Mr. Dinesh Trivedi did not discuss this issue with his party chief - Mamta Banerjee! It apparently came as a rude shock to Mamta who was furious at being bypassed. Hence she shot off a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to replace Trivedi with Mr,. Mukul Roy. 

At his press conference after presenting the budget, Dinesh Trivedi has said more than a couple of times that the Railways is in the ICU. If this increase is not implemented, we can say "tata bye bye" to the railways! The seriousness of this enormous comment cannot be wished away. The new Railway minister of the UPA tells us that the old railway ministers of the same UPA have screwed up the railways so much that the only option left to bring them out of the ICU is this increase. Which begs the question - why was this screwing up allowed? What exactly happened that Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mamta Banerjee have inflicted this pitiable state on the railways? Yashwant Sinha of the BJP asked the right question - The Prime Minister should explain why fares were not increased for the last 8 years! 

But ofcourse, he won't explain that! The next day, opposition parties question the government on the status of the railway budget and the railway minister. As always, Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee stood up - says that neither the PM nor the cabinet has to approve this. Only the finance minister has to approve it and now the budget is the property of the parliament! As always - the Prime Minister has nothing to do with this. The uncertainity still continues. If the Prime Minister accepts the resignation, then this will be yet another low in his already near-full basket of lows! Why should a minister be punished for trying to do his job? After a long time, we have seen a minister talk about cleanliness in the railways. This budget promises bio-toilets, which will replace the existing open discharge toilets. The budget also talks about some "green" initiatives like use of solar power etc. The budget also placed importance on the safety of passengers and announced a slew of measures. 

Now, why wouldn't the traveller be willing to pay a little more, to avail facilities? Why should there be no hike in fares for as long as 8 years? This is exactly what happens when you don't raise fares for 8 years - you have to do it at one go. And the ensuing ruckus will ensure you cannot do it peacefully also! Hail UPA! 

2. 2 days after the Railway Budget was presented, finance minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee presented the General Budget. As always, there was massive hype before the budget. Will this be the reform budget everyone is waiting for...blah blah blah. And quite expectedly, this budget turned out to be a damp squib. No reforms announced - only increase in indirect taxes that will burden the consumer (or the aam aadmi). So now your cars, ACs. fridges, two-wheelers, gold jewellery, flight travel, AC travel in train, eating in hotels, cosmetics etc etc will cost more. Some taxes have been cut - like the ones on imported drugs for treatment of cancer. Overall, this budget was aimed to making more money through indirect taxes - you can't blame the FM for trying so. The reason being - this government is undertaking massive social sector spending for which they need income too. How to get income? The tax-payer is there no! Burden him more, he will  whine for a day and then continue to pay taxes! That's all, your honour!