NATIONAL

Elders demand rollback of taxes

NEW DELHI, MARCH 17 . Most of the Rajya Sabha Members participating in the debate on the Union budget today demanded a rollback of the fringe benefit tax and the cess on cash withdrawals.

Jairam Ramesh (Congress) was the only one who considered the fringe benefits tax as justified but opposed the withdrawal tax as the problem of black money could not be tackled in this "homeopathic manner."

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, felt the budget was a "mirage."

Mr. Ramesh listed five positive features of which the biggest was the attention on rural infrastructure by combining the major elements under the the Bharat Nirman scheme. However, the cash withdrawal tax was "good in principle but bad in practice'' and called for a bolder scheme to trace black money without it being a disincentive to honest taxpayers.

On the fringe benefits tax, Mr. Ramesh pointed out that the initiative was in conformity with the global practice and recalled that it was one of the recommendations of the Raja Chelliah Committee on tax reforms that formed the bedrock for all initiatives taken by successive governments over the last 14 years.

Chittabrata Mazumdar (CPI-M) said the Finance Minister had tried to increase resources from the weaker sections, especially the salaried class and thathe should have concentrated on the "upper crust" of the taxpayers.

The former Chief of the Army Staff, Shankar Roychowdhury (Independent), felt there was "no frontal attack on NPAs though the AIBEA figures were staggering.''

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