Budget! It’s not a Game show!

Annual Government Budget has been a political show for years together but over a period it has lost its sheen and it is less of a show. When India became an independent nation, budgeting process had to be started. India as a whole, had never been a sovereign country before independence. In 1947 November, India’s first budget was presented. Of course, India was a poor country then and even now the large majority of the people are poor. But over a period, India started many industries, services, IT services was a major proponent of growth. India has a large number of farmers and farming sector, even today, it engages largest number of people. With the rapid growth in various sectors, India’s GDP is in top five nations in the world, though its per capita income is still very low, due to large population.  

As expected, India had a great difficulty in budgeting as there was nothing much in the kitty. Balancing the budget was a great art and there was always a conflict in budgetary allocations. Naturally, we started with education, India opted for large public-sector industries, big dams to help farming and to generate electricity. Then there was war with China in 1962, Pakistan 1965 & 1971 and one in 1947. With these wars, allocation started going more towards arms and ammunition. Factories were built to produce war material. Like any poor household, this strategy put stress on other sectors like agriculture, education. Private manufacturing was looked down upon and the industrialists were looked down upon as profiteers. Profit was a cuss word in those days, hence there was permit Raj and there were limits on the quantity of goods that could be manufactured. This type of thinking always led to scarcities and shortages. This further led to hoarding and black marketing. Added to this was political turmoil of 80’s. I think Bajaj Auto was the first company who challenged the government and said we will produce more scooters than the capacity, let us see what you do!

Since last ten years things have improved in India’s finances. Money is around and governments are trying to be prudent about allocations. Making a large country like India modern in science & technology, engineering, transportation, farming and defense is not a joke. Another important area is digitalization of the nation. Huge allocations are required for all these sectors.  

There is a large middle class, rich class, and biggest class is the poor class. Other than allocations for various sectors mentioned, the poor class needs to be supported in such a way that they become self-sufficient over a period of time. Other two classes have the where withal of taking care of themselves with or without Government support. This is what the government has done in the current budget. Poor will not be helped by dole or subsidies. But government actions may help this group in the most difficult areas, handling medical expenses.

Government has proposed a medical insurance scheme which will cover 100 million people in next couple of years. This scheme will cover a family of 5, for Rs.5/ lacs each. This means that 500 million people will come under the scheme. Illnesses have been one of the major factors that have ruined poor families’ finances. This scheme can take care of expenses during illnesses. Cynics will talk about difficulty to implement such schemes etc. Have you heard of something called Aadhar lately? Aadhar will be perfect tool to launch such an ambitious scheme.  

There is one more decision that will help millions of farmers. Government has covered 23 different items where farmers will get higher than today’s assured purchase price. This will help farmers, hopefully, from their current financial difficulties. There will be discussion why item A is not under the scheme but B is under the scheme. But this discussion is natural as everyone will be interested in his own well-being. But it is about people who are poor!  

But I see people like you and me cribbing that Income Tax slabs have not been improved. Come on we pay taxes; the majority who need help are those who don’t pay taxes! We worry that deduction against money spent on medical insurance is not increased. Difference is we are able to buy our own insurance, there are millions who can’t even buy it.  People are worried that iPhone, diamonds will become costly, Mercedes will be costly. Can these be even subjects for discussions? Every group of people want their pie to be improved. All want Indian cities to look like foreign cities. Only GDP increase does not do this. There should be minimum people below poverty line in any nation. Budgets now should now try and achieve this. For this all have to work together and support the Government whether it is formed by Party A or Party B!  Let political parties play the blaming game; it is their business but why you and I should be party to this?  Let them treat it as a game show in the Loksabha or outside the Loksabha!

Another thing I have observed post budget this time, is the proliferation of “Experts” being interviewed by newspapers. Since when students, housewives start giving Stars to the budget? Are they even one star in their knowledge about budget? Ask finance guys, ask people from industry, ask people in the know of it. They should be giving an overall opinion. Many real experts have opined about the effect of budget on their areas of work. Their remaining comments were general comments and not sweeping ones. What do the newspapers achieve by asking such a wide spectrum and asking them to give “Stars”? If by chance somebody had come to interview me, I would have 100% said, ” No comments! I am no expert in national budgeting”. 

Our nation is now on auto pilot for growth of GDP because of actions by successive governments. Now our budgets are what they should be, declaration of intents, allocation of funds to the priority sectors as visualized by the government in power. Let us make sure that this does not become lopsided; help poor to come out of their quagmire. Super rich will become richer without budgetary support. You and I should stop cribbing about vegetables being a little costlier, tur dal being a bit expensive. Sky is not going to fall if income tax deduction percentage is not improved. We want better India, smarter India and cleaner and neater India; let us make it all inclusive improvement. There could a little pain for a few groups, bearing it is tough, cribbing is simple. You decide what you want to do. Jaihind! 

 

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Evolution of Human Social Life!

We always talk of scientific evolution, industrial revolutions and progress of sciences. Evolution of human thinking about life and the way it is lived, is probably equally or more important. My thinking is based on practices followed in Hinduism. During initial thinking, a couple of thousand years back, life was divided in three parts; Obligation, Success, Pleasure. I am not talking of Ashramas as discussed in Hinduism. Later, freedom was added to the thinking. In Sanskrit, these are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. I feel that addition of freedom, was necessitated due to social changes, in parallel with changes in science and technology.   

I am trying to understand life style evolutions, going hand in hand, with scientific evolutions. I was wondering why the Moksha was not included initially as a part of human life. I think, that not many people really reached the age of freedom or Moksha.  

Dharma or Obligation was about doing the right things. This involved creating the right thinking in human mind; don’t become selfish, think about others. When we live in a society, the societal norms and etiquettes need to be followed. These have evolved over a period of time. In this phase of life, it is our duty is to learn societal norms. During this phase, humans also get married. Marriage is not only coming together of two people but it is about coming together of two families. This involves readjustment in your lives. This phase has undergone a major change. In olden days, marriages took place between bride and groom, who lived in the same vicinity and whose families were known to each other. The marriages took place at an early age. From time immemorial, there have been hierarchies in our society based on caste, creed and many other parameters. Ones station in life was decided by these parameters. Marriages also took place initially, dictated by hierarchy. King’s family did not marry a commoner. Have these things changed today? It is both yes and no! 

There is a typical Hindi word बिरादरी, which means fraternity. Marriages still take place within fraternity, caste and so on. But there is a big change; people now do marry outside fraternity, different castes, different religions, they can be from far off places, or from different countries. With more education, people tend to get married late. Our thinking is slowly adapting to these changes. This is major social evolution or even an upheaval.  

In adulthood, one gets established in life, simultaneously while establishing in a job or business, but both are equally important. This is the success phase. Over a period, in this phase, now there is a big change. As late as 50 to 70 years back, one finished education, got a job, got married, procreated and retired from the same job. A few years after retirement many simply died! Now post education, someone may start a business right away. On the other side it is no more surprising when people continue with their education till early 30’s. By the age of 30, I had a six-year-old son and had a work experience of 6 to 7 years. This changing trend has its own pluses and minuses. But system does evolve itself.  

Trends in the stable phase of human life are also changing. This is now a phase where people procreate, work, travel and have fun. This goes hand in hand with their professional work. Now we see many cases where both husband and wife work. People tend to be busy 24/7, 365 days doing various things in life. The trend of buying homes and big cars, as soon as possible, is also coming in vogue. Adding to these changes, another important aspect that has changed is, from joint family structure, we are switching over to nuclear family. Money in plenty is available but home support is diminishing. Our society is adjusting to these changes too! Crèches, home staff, drivers become your “family” for support. When people live in foreign countries, their parents go and live for months together for support; but in the end parents do come back home. Nuclear family of old parents is also becoming a norm. This recent trend is mainly because of globalization and IT industry proliferation. 

I feel that pleasure and freedom phases have merged and these phases start a little late in life because the medical revolution has increased longevity. People live much longer than before; life expectancy was 31 in 1947 in India now it is 66. This indicates that larger proportion lives much longer after retirement. By the time of retirement, major family responsibilities are over. Financial commitments are lesser and finance availability is much better. This is the time when pleasure phase is in top gear plus freedom to do things, that were not possible during busy phase. I have an argument which may be, a bit controversial. In olden days, after the productive phase, Moksha or merging of soul with cosmic soul was thought to be final phase in life. During those days, there was hardly anything else to do than to follow the path of Moksha and try to achieve nirvana. Hence the term merging of soul with cosmic soul was used. I have nothing against trying to give up so called pleasures in lieu of bhakti or following the religious practices to achieve moksha. But now moksha is an option, not like olden days when it was the only option.  

Large number people travel, follow their dreams, maybe start a new venture in this phase! This social change is happening rapidly due to advent social evolution in tandem with ease of travel, ease of knowing about far off places. There are online courses available for photography, learning new languages, gardening. There are facilities to learn details about Bhagwad Geeta and there are special religious tours arranged for senior citizens. This reminds me of a joke. A guy tells his friend that he was about to book a religious holiday package for his family with parents. When he went to ask his parents, the father said, ” Sorry son can’t make it! We have booked a holiday for Bangkok and Pattaya!” Social change, anybody?  

Moksha is liberation from cycle of birth & death. This is taught by our religions but religious thinking which is part of social fabric also undergoes changes, along with technological changes! When no other option is available we adopt to existing conditions. But current social changes in pleasure and freedom in life can be considered like migration of young people looking for better options! So, Moksha or evolution, what is your take? I will prefer Moksha in St Moritz or Gangtok anytime! Come join the new Moksha brigade!