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   Mr. Chidambaram's first and last budget... (July 23, 1996)

Mr. Chidambaram's first and last budget, I am afraid, has been washed away by Mumbai's rains.t he monsoon has upstaged the budget.

In any case, it is nto much of a budget. From what I can gather, and I am not an expert, it is an up and down budget, upset nobody, please nobody, in the end, achieve nothing. Everything the UF government has done so far has been like that – negative, or to put it more correctly, having little bearning. It could not have been otherwise, because, this is not a government. It is a stop-gap arrangement, devised in order to keep the BJP out and give the Congress enough time to regroup and reinforce itself.

I do not say that a government should be made of intellectuals. Far from it, but it should at least be made of economists. You cannot have a government of Lalloo Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadhavs, not for a period of five years.

Meanwhile, the rains: I do not know if you are aware, but we have not seen the sun over the city, not once, this week. Of course, the week is only in its second morning, but I do not think there is going to be much sunshine around for the rest of the week. It is like English weather. In its most dismal winter, you do not see the sun for a couple of weeks, and daylight ends every afternoon by 3 p.m. But there are compensations. The cities are brightly lit, there is central heating everywhere, in tuubes, buses, shops, offices, theatres, your car is on the heater, and the towel rail in your hotel.

Mumbai offfers very few such compensations in the face of a frontal promptly stop running, buses do not come out of the depots, and raods get flooded and more. That so many people still attend work is a miracle. For that you have to give credit to the spirit of the Bombayman. In other cities of India, Calcutta, Madras, Delhi, rains like these would suspend all activities.

But my thoughts this moment are with the people living in hutments, shanty towns, plastic shades stretched over pavements. And there are more citizens living thus than in apartments. The municipal corporation and the government does not have the honesty to conduct a census and find out how many people are living thus.

Water, of course, enters the homes. The living area becomes a small pool of water, with the oldest and yougest members of the family perched on a high bed, a little above the water level. This evening, as you are having your roasted ‘bootha' and saying, what lovely weather, thing about this.

Or, on second thought, don't. As it is, the day has begun badly with Mr. Chidambaram's non-budget.

 
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