NATIONAL

`Jaswant will keep Rajnath panel suggestions in mind'

NEW DELHI JAN. 28. The Rajnath Singh Committee's report on the Kelkar recommendations on taxes was submitted by the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Venkaiah Naidu, to the Union Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, on Monday when he is believed to have assured Mr. Naidu that he would certainly keep the suggestions in mind, while finalising the tax proposals and the fiscal policy.

In its final form the Rajnath committee has praised Mr. Singh's effort to rationalise taxation, bring transparency to the formulation of a policy by initiating a debate on the issue and modernising tax administration.

The pill has been made sweeter by the praise of both Mr. Singh and the efforts of the Task Force.

Releasing the Rajnath report today, Mr. Naidu said the Finance Minister had been taking the right steps in the right direction.

The Kelkar task force had aimed at transparency, simplification of the tax procedure and minimising of harassment of taxpayers. That was appreciated by the party.

The party, however, has not diluted its suggestions on the crucial issue of maintaining the status quo for the salaried employees on standard deduction, while welcoming a higher tax exemption limit as suggested by Mr. Kelkar.

The Rajnath committee, has pleaded for retention of the special tax concessions for the elderly and women, for continuing to encourage savings through tax rebates and for the status quo on tax rebates on medical and education expenses.

It also argued in favour of continuing the existing rebates on housing loans as it had not only helped the middle-class people finance homes but had also revived the steel and cement industries.

The party committee rejected the Kelkar proposals on a uniform rate of depreciation under the Income Tax and the Companies Act and it strongly opposed the reversal of duty-free production limit for the small scale sector from Rs. 50 lakhs to Rs. 1 crore.

On divided tax, it endorsed the Kelkar recommendation to remove this tax at the hands of recipients.

Panchayati Raj

Addressing party workers at a meeting, Mr. Naidu, urged the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue of devolution of adequate powers and funds to the Panchayati Raj institutions through a Constitution amendment in the coming Budget session of Parliament.

Last year at the All-India Panchayati Raj Adhyaksha Sammelan, a broad political consensus had evolved on the need for such an amendment to fulfil the spirit of the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act, which envisioned the devolution of more powers to the local self-government bodies.

At the village-level people were dissatisfied with the pace of devolution of funds to local bodies. Local self-government could become a reality only when powers were transferred to it on 29 identified subjects and funds were made available.

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