Econ Mom watches Rail Budget with Lil One

Lil One has been quite unwell. He had a bad tonsillitis episode combined with a nasty viral fever and was grounded at home last week. From Wednesday onwards, he was actually quite on the recovery path; a quick barometer to gauge recovery is the “back-answering” index. He was shooting nasty answers at me quite happily and when on Wednesday, dinner saw him crack some of the most abominable toilet jokes, I knew that he was absolutely fine.

“Why don’t you go to school tomorrow? I am busy and you seem to be quite fit. And your jokes will find a much more errr…receptive audience,” I remarked nastily after having suffered about 21 of those, most of them cracked just when I was about to gulp my food.

“What? School? Nnnnaaah, this is so much fun!” Lil One said innocently and quite happily and then catching my nasty gaze, recoiled with a correction. “I mean…I mean…I mean I am quite unwell, Mom. Even Doc says the same thing. Are you going to send your sick child to school?”This one came with wide eyes and the sweetest possible tone.

“You are quite right about the “sick” bit, there. Ok. If you don’t want to go to school, that’s fine. But let’s study something. You have missed a lot of lessons.”

And so we sat down to read the lesson on the Parliament. The main function of the Parliament, said the lesson, was to debate and discuss and legislate. Pass laws for the betterment of the country. The Parliament is made up of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and the President. Once the bills are passed by both houses, the President signs the bill into an act.

“Heehee, if I were the President, I wouldn’t sign so easily,” said Lil One, his eyes glinting mischief and wickedness. “What happens then, Mom?”

“Hmmm. I’ll tell you what, Lil One, it is to take care of wicked minds like yours that our Constitution is drafted so beautifully. The moment such wicked thoughts come to your mind, immediately an article comes in to offer correction. So, the Constitution provides that the President can refuse to sign a bill that has been passed by both houses only once. The second time around, he has to sign. Now do you see what a great job Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar has done?”

I could see awe in Lil One’s eyes. He tends to respect people who can pre-empt mischief.

“The lesson says you can’t introduce money bills in Rajya Sabha. Why is that so, Mom?”

“Well, the LS members are elected by direct voting, but RS members are not. So matters pertaining to money have to be proposed by people’s direct representatives. Got that, pesky?”

“Oh! Is that what you keep talking about? The Budget? Does that mean the Budget only can be introduced in the Lok Sabha?”

“Bingo!” I beamed at him with pride. I like it when he talks economics. “The Budget is a proposal that the Finance Minister has for the country. So, he will present the Budget in the Parliament. The other MPs will listen and debate and discuss. He will then submit the Finance Bill for discussion and approval to the Parliament. All this is done under the supervision of the speaker. The FM is Mr. Arun Jaitley (Lil One nodded knowledgeably) and the Speaker is Mrs. Sumitra Mahajan.”

“Oh! I didn’t know that the Speaker was a woman!”

“Whether in Parliament or at home, only women are speakers, son.” That was Hubby. I gave him a poisonous look while Lil One giggled.

“Is that why you are busy tomorrow, Mom? Is the Budget going to be declared tomorrow?”

“No, sweetie. Tomorrow is the Rail Budget. It will be presented by the Rail Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu.”

“What happens in the Rail Budget?”

“Well, Railways are a BIG project for the Government. So he’ll tell us tomorrow how many new trains will be introduced. Whether new tracks will be created to join remote areas. Whether trains will be made more hygienic. Whether superfast trains can be introduced for certain tracks. Whether he is planning to increase the fares for passengers and/or freight. Do you know that more business for Railways comes from freight than from passengers like us?”

“Wow! No, I didn’t know that. So will he raise tickets for the freight trains?”

“I guess not,” I said smiling at the peculiar “freight ticket” usage. “Business from the freight component has already been falling. His steepest competition for freight is trucks. And since diesel prices have been steady, I do not somehow see him risking increasing the freight rates.”

“Why is this Rail budget such a big thing?”

“Well, if he plans lots of new trains and tracks, then the Government will go shopping for steel. And the steel makers will employ more people. And they’ll shop for coal. And the coal businesses will increase employment. When the people working in the coal and steel industries get paid, they go shopping for clothes and books and food. So more people get employed in those industries and so on. So, if the Rail Budget promises lots of new investments and new tracks etc., then it is good news for employment and welfare of the people.” Whew! Explaining the Keynesian multiplier to kids is a tough job. Lil One didn’t look super convinced, but didn’t say much.

Next day was the Rail Budget. Since Lil One was at home, I told him to watch the Rail Budget with me. “But I won’t understand it!” He started to whine. “See the Lok Sabha in action once. You will get a better grip on that lesson!”

And so Econ Mom sat down with Lil One to watch the Budget. He was watching everything quite carefully, and in between listening to the announcements, I was pointing out where the Speaker sits. And showing him how the MPs sit on their benches in a semi-circular arrangement to debate and discuss.

As some shouting erupted over some announcement, I primly told him, “The chief function of the Parliament is to debate and discuss and pass laws.”

I was rather proud of myself for having converged my rail budget gyan with his civics lesson and was congratulating myself on having done a simply phenomenal job when Lil One piped up.

“But Mom, they are only shouting!”

I was flustered. “Ahm, well, that does happen at times, when they feel very errrr…passionately about an issue.”

“And look at that man. He is sleeping. Hee hee hee! And those two women back there don’t even know what is happening. That’s exactly how Swapnil looks in the class when Teacher is teaching us linear equations. Heeheee!”

Gawd! What a reality check! I guess I should have never got so enthusiastic about getting civics lessons to come alive. “Now if anyone asks me what I want to be, I know what I’ll say! I want to be an MP! It’s really easy and it’s so much fun!” Sigh!





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