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Smoke, mirrors, illusions and the railway budget

Even if there's no noise about something, the underlying reality does not change

Smoke, mirrors, illusions and the railway budget

There's news that next year onwards, there will be no Railway Budget. There's other news that next year onwards, the Railway Budget will be merged into the general Union Budget. There's still other news that there will be no Railway Budget speech. I'm not sure which of these is the correct interpretation, or perhaps this has simply not been decided yet.

In any case, this underscores the utter uniqueness of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. In the classic TV serial Yes Minister, the civil servant Humphrey Appleby remarked that politicians can hardly believe in their own existence unless they see themselves on TV. Prabhu is that unique politician who has willingly stepped out of the limelight because it makes sense to do so.

In social media, as well as in real life, I see some people expressing alarm at the decision. They wonder how this will impact the operations of the Railways. This worry is amusing--just because there is no separate railway budget does not mean that the Railways won't have money to run the trains.

We often mistake the tamasha surrounding an activity for the actual underlying reality. The daily ritual of business channels reporting on the stock markets is a great example of this. If an honest anchor of a business channel was analysing the day's movement on the equity markets it should actually be something like, "The Sensex was up by 275 points today, while the Nifty was up 92 points. There was no real reason for these moves. Like most days, today was a day of random events on the stock markets. We have nothing else to add so our channel will be shut till tomorrow morning." Instead, we get a steady litany of cause and effect from oil prices to interest rates in distant lands to the appointment of central bankers.

If none of this happened--and none of it was recited breathlessly on TV, the underlying reality would stay the same.