Income Tax exemptions, focus on generation of jobs and safety of women and senior citizens have put a smile on the common man’s face
New Delhi: Tax payers could save on their salaries, and consumer goods like TVs, soap, footwear, processed food and computers will cost less as the Rs 18-lakh crore maiden budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government promised to arrest price rise, boost investor mood, cut expenditure and restore India’s growth to 7-8 percent in three years.
During a 128-minute speech in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, with a five-minute break allowed by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan upon his request due to momentary discomfort, a host of other proposals, both welfare schemes and reformist policy measures, were also unveiled that were aimed at a wide range of stakeholders — from the girl child to senior citizens and overseas investors to the defence forces.
At the same time, he accepted as a challenge — given the state of the flagging economy and rising prices — the task to cut fiscal deficit, which indicates the extent to which the government overspends, to 4.1 percent of GDP for this fiscal, and further to 3.6 percent and 3 percent over the next two years.
“The steps that I will announce in this budget are only the beginning of a journey towards a sustained growth of 7-8 percent or above within the next 3-4 years along with macro-economic stabilisation,” the finance minister said.
“Therefore, it would not be wise to expect everything that can be done or must be done to be in the first budget presented within 45 days of the formation of this government,” he added, setting the agenda for his speech.
“We are going in the right direction to overcome challenges faced in the last decade,” echoed Modi, while congratulating Jaitley for the budget in which he provided a “new ray of hope for the poor and downtrodden sections of society.” It was also in line with the “government’s vision to create a skilled and digital India,” the prime minister said.
Common man happy
“For a change the government has given us importance. I welcome the announcements and hope that the government will take proper care of us,” said Kailash Nihalani, a 72-year-old retired teacher living in west Delhi.
The allocation of R150 crore to improve safety for women in larger cities was applauded by all, especially in the wake of the horrific December 16, 2012, gang rape in the national capital. “I hope this money is spent properly on protecting our mothers, daughters and sisters and making our cities safer for them,” said Rajan Singh, a 32-year-old businessman from Chandigarh.
Meanwhile, the decision to increase excise duty on cigarettes and tobacco products as well as aerated drinks is a step in the right direction, felt many.
“Who needs these colas and cigarettes? They are poison for our health. I know it’s tough to ban them but the next best thing to do is to make them expensive,” said Vivek Sethi, a 30-year-old dietician based in south Delhi.
The news obviously upset smokers, many of whom said that they would have no option but to curtail the number of sticks they smoke, or even kick the butt.
The Rs 100-crore club
The budget has set aside the same amount — Rs 100 crore —for the following projects:
>> Scheme to support about 600 new and existing Community Radio Stations
>> Metro projects in Lucknow and Ahmedabad
>> Ghat development and beautification of the river-front at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi
>> Expediting the preparation of Detailed Project Reports in an effort to link the country’s rivers
>> Launching Kisan TV, a channel dedicated to farmers and agriculture
>> Construction of a war memorial and a war museum at Princess Park near India Gate
>> A new scheme called ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’
Highlights of the budget
>> Hike in the income tax exemption limit for individuals below 60 years to Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh for senior citizens. Deductions under various heads such as investments in insurance, pension and house rent were also proposed to be raised by Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh.
Illustrations/ Amit Bandre
>> Interest on housing loans will also get a higher exemption.
>> Duty-free baggage allowance for Indians returning from abroad is also sought to be raised to Rs 45,000 from Rs 35,000.
>> Farmers will also stand to gain with Jaitley's proposal for an integrated national market for agro-produce, that will enable them to sell their crops directly to consumers and earn better prices. The subsidies to them, notably for soil nutrients, have also been enhanced.
>> For industry, he assured that the pan-India goods and services tax will be introduced by the end of the year and a fresh view will be taken on the direct tax code.
>> Retrospective tax, which creates liabilities not planned for, and has been a matter of much concern for both domestic and overseas investors, will not be imposed at random.
>> Customs duties and excise rates were also rationalised for a host of sectors.
>> He also sought to remove the perception of policy inaction and a freeze on economic reforms by hiking foreign equity in insurance and defence equipment to 49 percent from 26 percent.
>> New schemes for conservation of sacred rivers, a sports university in Manipur, welfare fund for migrants from Kashmir, conservation of the Himalayas, support for organic farming and a 24X7 channel for northeast and protecting the heritage of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
>> For the defence forces, the allocation is being raised by about 12% to Rs 2,29,000 crore, besides Rs 5,000 crore for the modernisation of the 1.2 million-strong armed forces.
If your annual Income is...
Rs 3 lakh
The relief provided will result in tax savings of Rs 5,150
Rs 5 lakh
The tax benefit will come to Rs 10,300 after considering tax deduction under 80C.
Rs 10 lakh
The savings in taxes would be Rs 15,450
Rs 7,060 crore
Amount earmarked for developing 100 ‘smart cities’
Rs 38,000 cr
Amount set aside for fast-tracking highways to augment the nation’s arterial network
Rs 700 crore
The sum allocated for carrying out reforms in the power and water sectors in New Delhi
Rs 2,037 crore
Amount set aside for the conservation of River GangaA