What’s Shorter than a Mum-Pune flight? Passing the Finance Bill


What’s Shorter than a Mum-Pune flight? Passing the Finance Bill

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Mumbai to Pune is a 35-minute flight, one of the shortest flight routes in the country. As I set my phone to flight mode, the country set itself to panic mode. I had no idea that while I was soaring in the sky at 35,000 feet, our politicians were plunging to the depths of moral and ethical behaviour in Parliament.

12.00 pm: My flight commenced, and with the exception of a crying baby in the diagonal seat, it was fairly calm. On the ground though, a shouting match had begun in Parliament. It’s rather shameful, isn’t it, that we expect a crying baby to eventually stop after a few minutes but grown adults shouting over each other and adjourning Parliament day in, day out is the norm now?

12.06 pm: We were ready for take off, much like the shambles inside our Parliament. While the pilot of my flight was politely informing us about himself, the crew and the wonderful weather, the speaker of the Lok Sabha wasn’t as invested in niceties. Cut motions were being denied with the swiftness of Master Shifu, without any reason being cited. A sole old lady on the flight, terrified of the take off, was chanting the Gayatri Mantra. Bet her fear equalled those of the folks in the Lower House, who were chanting about the death of democracy.

12.11 pm: The safety lecture commenced inside the flight. This was probably a great time to fetch the jacket from under my seat and jump off the plane to save my country. But then, I had no clue what was going on, because a) My phone was on airplane mode and, b) I had no idea where the jacket was because no one pays attention to safety announcements. Just like the cabin crew within the flight, hand movements and gestures were also going on in the Parliament, as tables were thumped and grants that usually take a whole week of discussion were cleared in… four minutes.

12.14 pm: It was time to eat, the only exciting part of the flight. In the couple of minutes it took for the hostess to check my boarding pass, give me the various options, and eventually serve me the meal and drink, the Appropriation Bill had been passed in Parliament. And unlike my meal, there was no discussion or debate on it. I spent more time choosing between a paneer roll and vegetable sandwich than my elected representatives did, about money that would affect the lives of 130 crore people.

I landed in Pune, and the Parliament had processed bills faster than my metabolism could process the flight food.

12.15 pm: I began my meal at quarter after 12, the same time the Finance Bill 2018 was taken up for consideration. It had more clauses than my sandwich had calories. And while my window shade was open, transparency with relation to foreign donations just got a lot shadier. Parties can escape scrutiny on controversial foreign funding retrospectively for 42 years, while you still have to dump shampoo and gel bottles from your luggage.

12.31 pm: It took me approximately 16 minutes to finish my meal along with the aam juice. The aam aadmi was also fucked over in the same period as the entire country’s budget was passed. It usually takes three to five hours to discuss every aspect of the Finance Bill, co-incidentally also the time it takes to get from Mumbai to Pune if you take an Air India flight.

12.33 pm: We were nearing our destination and had already started descending. It could not possibly be replicated by our representatives in the Lok Sabha because they couldn’t go any lower than the conduct they had already displayed. The drastically changing altitude caused some mild disruptions in the flight but it was nothing compared to the tremors that were being felt outside Parliament, as everyone watched with shock. Opposition parties submitted a strongly worded letter to the Speaker, which got as little attention as the various announcements that the pilot keeps making throughout the flight.

12.35 pm: I landed in Pune, and the Parliament had processed bills faster than my metabolism could process the flight food. I was about to throw up, which would have been an apt metaphor to sum up the day’s events.

The moment I got off the flight and turned on the phone, it started buzzing with updates. Funding for 99 ministries, two bills and 218 amendments affecting 130 crore people had all been passed in the time it takes to walk out from the terminal of the airport and get a cab. For the first time in my life, the pilot’s in-flight announcement began to make sense: Brace for impact.