The media is terribly unfair to our politicians at this time of the year.
I've been listening to, and reading, commentaries and analysis for the last two days, and I just can't figure out what they want.
Laloo Yadav comes up with a decent rail budget that does not burden the ordinary rail passenger any further and they dismiss his budget as 'populist.'
What, anyway, is so wrong with being populist'?
A minister who is taking 'populist' measures is simply giving the people what they want. Right?
A minister has been given the power to take these measures by people who believe that he/she will take decisions based on what they want. Right?
A minister has no business taking economic decisions that affect the lives of a hundred crore people, if he/she does not have public sanction. Budget, therefore, have to be populist.
I, for one, don't swallow that claptrap about taking 'harsh decisions that are necessary... even if it meets with public opposition, at this point of time.' It smacks of authoritarianism.
It's like saying - "The people of this country are idiots. They don't know what's good for them. We'll have to give them a few bitter pills (which may be sugar-coated, lest they resort to open rebellion, in protest) but once swallowed, these bitter pills will be good for the national economy's health..."
Which is a very stupid line of reasoning. They don't know better. No one knows my needs better than I do.
I travel in trains and I know I don't need fare hikes. And oh, I would like air travel to become much, much cheaper. I don't mind competition in that segment. If, by allowing FDI, or by relaxing norms so entrepreneurs are encouraged to set up more indigenous airlines, air-fares can be brought down, I want the government to make that sort of decision.
I don't want cooking gas to be more expensive. I don't care much if petrol prices are hiked. If you can afford a car, you can afford the fuel. If you can't, switch to public transport, or bicylces. Good for health, too. Or car-pool.
On the other hand, it does bother me a little if deisel prices go up. Most tractors and other farm equipment needs deisel. Farmers will either have to bear the brunt, or will pass on the cost to the end-customer (highly unlikely, in this country). Food - and the processes involved in producing and distributing it - should never be expensive.
I rather like Chidambaram for his budget - at least, as much of it as I've heard so far, and can understand the relevance of. I like the fact that he's made tax exemptions for those make less than Rs 1 lakh p.a., and especial concessions for women and senior citizens.
I like the fact that he's imposed a small cess on those who withdraw more than Rs 10,000 from an ATM (at least, that's what I gathered from the annoucnement) in a day. If you're the kind of guy who withdraws that kind of money on a daily basis, you can surely afford a couple of bucks as cess.
In fact, I think all the big malls and five/seven-star hotels should have a built-in tax. You pay ten percent extra on all goods that you buy anywhere that's glass-fronted.
Tax the cigarette-gutka guys. Tax the liquor guys. Tax the luxury car guys. Tax all who can afford it, I say. For now, PC, hum tumhare saath hain.