Sandeep Joshi

`No steps to curb inflation nor any relief on tax front in budget'

NEW DELHI: The Union Budget proposals for 2007-08 have come as a big disappointment for the common man as Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has neither announced any immediate steps to curb inflation and check spiralling prices nor given any major relief by reducing direct or indirect taxes.

"While the Congress claims that it is concerned about the common man, Mr. Chidambaram's budget has nothing major to offer to the ordinary citizens who are suffering due to high inflation," said Sanjay Sharma, a resident of East Delhi. "A one per cent increase in the education cess will put an additional burden on the citizens and the hike in dividend declaration tax will affect the investors."

Though the Finance Minister has raised the threshold limit for income tax exemption by Rs.10,000 for all assessees, he has at the same time increased the education cess. "It is nothing but an attempt to fool taxpayers who will end up paying more for various services and other taxes," said Amit Kothari, an engineer with a software firm.

Echoing similar sentiments, chartered accountant Rajesh Kumar said that with the rise in inflation, the purchasing power of every individual had declined. "Mr. Chidambaram could have easily raised the threshold limit for exemption to Rs.1.5 lakhs and given more sops so that more money was available to the common man to spend. This would have also given the much-needed relief from rising inflation," he added. "What is the use of a high growth rate when the common man is heavily burdened with increasing prices and high tax rates?"

Criticising Mr. Chidambaram for failing to announce any sops for housewives, Rekha Prakash said that instead of reducing taxes on jewellery and packaged foods, Mr. Chidambaram should have concentrated on bringing down prices of essential items and food grains that have become very dear. "Similarly, with tax collections showing an impressive growth, the Finance Minister should have brought down the rate of service tax as it directly affects the monthly budget of every household. Our monthly spending has gone up considerably due to the high rate of service tax, which needs to be brought down immediately," he added.

However, some people feel that the emphasis on agriculture, education and health sectors in the budget is a step taken in the right direction. Similarly, schemes for senior citizens and rural poor have also been welcomed. They also hoped that reduction in duty of petrol and diesel would bring down fuel prices further.

"For holistic growth it is necessary to bring about a positive change in the social sector. Measures announced for agriculture sector would improve farmers' condition and boost farm productivity. Similarly, more grants for education mean a better knowledge bank and improved investment in heath sector will improve the standard of life of people. However, it will take some time before the desired results of these investments become visible," said entrepreneur Kuldeep Sharma.