Listening to 20-somethings on the budget was a revelation
The budget session in Parliament was an oddly exciting experience, what with all the big political players sitting in the same room. Some paid attention, some fidgeted, the backbenchers joked, and some took notes. But what intrigued me more were the reactions of friends who came with me to be in the visitors’ gallery (willingly may I add), all about 25.
During the lunch that followed I was constantly reminded that we had all grown up (cannot afford inane college talk anymore). The conversation drifted to how the budget affected each one. That mutual funds can now directly invest abroad is a huge step said one; they no longer need to go via off shore companies. What about the healthcare industry lamented the other, when will the government give subsidies to larger hospital equipment?
The word on the rialto is good. The feeling is that India is finally taking off! Investment is the buzzword. When Chidambaram joked that he had good news for pet lovers (less import duty on pet food), the Opposition protested, ‘aam aadmi ka kya?’ and I realised I had been nodding along too for I have a friend in the business.
The difference that I have realised is that my personal interests and those of my friends lie at the macro, not micro level. We see the problems of the country, not because we have faced them but because we are the elite. We can afford to look at the economy in terms of opportunity.
And so lunch continued: didn’t they want to change the budget after the setback in Punjab and Uttarakhand, asked one. The other replied, yes, but you can’t change the budget overnight. Lighting a cigarette, another asked, remember the day cigarettes were cheaper in India than abroad?
It seems to me that the economy is divorced from politics for my friends. The logic is that economic progress needs to continue, no matter who is in power — India’s economic joy ride is not going to be derailed. But petty communal politics scares a lot of us who have grown up in diverse communities because it could disrupt the progress that’s been made. That’s not the India we want to live in.
But then again, you can’t expect all twenty-somethings to pay too much attention. I had mentioned to someone I was going for the budget session. The reaction: “Oh really, where is it?”
One day we’ll all grow up.