Keep the Five-Year Plans in view
The Budget should be in line with our Five-Year Plans and it should lay stress on making provision for an unemployment stipend as well as a definite and compulsory link with population policy. A progressive and non-political Budget should strike a balance between savings and investment policy. Since the saving rates are going down, investment in the productive assets of the country is becoming increasingly sick. Development is the result of more money available for circulation in the market. Unfortunately, our Budgets are directionless and political, and do not take into account common man. There is no stress on agriculture, industry and security sectors. Our policy should be liberalised further and move from privatisation to globalisation. A balanced Budget would curb rising prices and deficit. By raising the rates of interest on all kinds of savings and liberalising income tax system, we will bring a balance between employees and businessmen. Attention should be given to minimising the use of non-renewable natural resources.
MOHINDER PAUL PAHUJA, Sangrur
Spend more on research
I would like the Budget to be pro-people and pro-productivity. It should plan to attack poverty, illiteracy, disease and unemployment through agricultural, industrial and infrastructural projects; help the peasantry overcome their hardships; strengthen the economy by curbing corruption, black money, tax-evasion and realising tax arrears; introduce economic reforms with human face; simplify the tax-structure and give a boost to Indian industry and FDI. India should spend more on research and development to meet the challenges posed by the WTO regime, and quality in education, health services and drinking water should be ensured. Special schemes to uplift the standard of living of the poor should be announced so that they also get to taste the fruits of economic growth. Additional revenue should not be generated by burdening the poor and the common man. Ensure the efficient functioning of public-sector units and allow private partnership in a humane way.
SUDESH KUMAR SHARMA, Kapurthala
Review IT limit, rate of interest
Last year’s Union Budget had created two discriminatory income tax exemption limits. This discrimination should be removed and the exemption limit should be raised to Rs 1 lakh uniformly for all taxpayers. The upper investment ceiling on the Post Office Monthly Income Scheme (MIS) should also be raised to 15 lakh, as has been done in the case of Senior Citizens Savings Scheme. I see no rationale behind fixing any upper ceiling on the deposits when the government is in dire need of funds. Interest offered to senior citizens in their exclusive savings scheme is no better than the PO MIS. Surely, the elderly, who mainly depend on the interest income, deserve a better deal. Interest rate in their case should be at least 2 per cent higher than the general rate.
Wg-Cdr C. L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar
Pensioners seek a fair deal
The Union Government’s decision to raise the rate of interest on the Employees’ Provident Fund from 8.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent is most welcome. It will benefit nearly 4 crore subscribers and induce them to save more. Regarding bank interest rate, senior citizens have a grouse. Earlier, they were being paid one per cent higher rate of interest over the normal rate of their bank deposits, but the erstwhile NDA government reduced it to half a per cent. The UPA government is urged to restore the benefit of one per cent in its Budget for 2005-2006. Similarly, a higher rate of interest may be offered to senior citizens on their fixed term deposits in post offices also.
GOVERNMENT PENSIONERS’ ASSOCIATION, Ludhiana
Successive governments have been ignoring pensioners. Senior citizens are 14 per cent of population, and as voters, can be a significant pressure group. Dr Manmohan Singh, while in Opposition in the Rajya Sahba, had said the government should accept the recommendations of the fifth Pay Commission, which neither the NDA nor the UPA government has accepted. It is time now to fulfill all pending demands of pensioners (commutation restoration after 12 years instead of after 15 years; 1 per cent increase in pension for those who put in more than 33 years of service, in family pension for pre-1996 retirees; free medicare to all pensioners by scrapping RELHS etc). Senior citizens who receive neither any government pension nor own any sufficient property for sustenance, should be given at least Rs 2,000 per month for survival. Without caring for her senior citizens, India can never be a true welfare state.
NORTHERN RAILWAY PENSIONERS’ WELFARE ASSOCIATION, Ludhiana
Keep in view the changing requirements
Besides giving due importance to agriculture, its allied activities, social overhead investment and export-oriented industrialisation, the government should take care of the urban poor and middle-class salaried personnel. A uniform and constant pricing policy should be adopted on consumer items of bare necessities like tea, sugar, milk, wheat, rice, edible oil, vegetable, kerosene oil and cooking gas. Housing, health, medicine and education facilities should continue to be offered at low rates. Concessional farm inputs and irrigation facilities during peak hours, urbanisation, family planning, reforms in power sector for optimum use of electricity at reasonable rates, environment and ecology should also occupy prime importance. Tax collection should be fair and complete in all respects. Tax evaders should be sufficiently penalised. Service tax at 10.2 per cent on bank draft or pay order or on any other remittance facility should be abolished. On the whole, the Budget should be people friendly and ably serve the changing needs and requirements of the public.
NIRMAL KUMAR, Panchkula
Be harsh on tax evaders
The Budget to be presented by the Union Finance Minister should be soft on senior citizens and the salaried class, but it should be harsh for those who avoid paying taxes or manipulate their assets/income with impunity to pay the minimum possible tax. The bank saving interest rates should be enhanced suitably so as to provide genuine taxpayers with appropriate relief, as their hard-earned money now fetches almost negligible returns, except for security. More tax benefit schemes should be introduced in the banks and post-offices to afford reasonable relief and cushion to senior citizens and the salaried class.
R. K. BHATIA, Panchkula
Don’t spare alcohol
The Budget should be people-friendly, even if it is politico-friendly at the same time. Reliefs and subsidies have been given in the past to either the very poor or the very rich. Common man has always been suppressed. Agriculturists get their carrots, but government makes no plan to encourage lifting of goods gathering dust in its godown. The Finance Minister should ensure that at least the essential commodities are within the reach of everyone, which can be done by lowering the excise duties on common goods. In turn, luxury items should be heavily taxed. Alcohol and alcoholic substances should be heavily charged, so that their use is minimised. Medicine should cost less. Cut taxes on it, and it will become affordable. Health insurance should be given to all, as in the western countries. Employment should be maximised and checks should be brought in for bringing down expenditure during elections. Anganwadi workers should get their due salaries and respect.
DIVYA GUPTA, Patiala
Rural poor need FM’s attention
Spare a thought for agricultural workers and small peasants, while presenting the Budget. Poor states like Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan deserve to get more funds for roads, hospitals, irrigation and potable water. The rural sector has been suffering grave injustice for the past 58 years; this pro-urban policy has to be revised. The salaried people have, so far, got no relief in the real sense in any Budget, especially where the rate of standard deduction is concerned. Irrational taxation encourages evasion. Teachers can be exempted from paying taxes, but the corporate houses should indeed pay more tax. The UPA’s Finance Minister is expected to operate within the framework of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), so he has little individual choice. Except Chaudhary Charan Singh and H. D. Deve Gowda, nobody in the South Block has bothered about the rural poor, so far.
Dr RAJ BAHADUR YADAV DEHATI, Fatehabad
The Budget should be people-friendly and take care of the weaker sections of society, employees, retirees and senior citizens. The rates of interest on savings schemes, fixed deposits and schemes for senior citizens should be increased, because pensioners depend almost entirely on this income to make both ends meet. Special attention should be paid to the education, health, power generation/distribution, employment, tourism, environment and human resources development sectors by ensuring higher budgetary allocations. Black money and tax evasion should be checked with the heavy arm of law. Agriculture and industry should get our priority; progress can be made only through a rapid improvement in these sectors. Subsidies on the LPG and kerosene should not be reduced and the prices of basic commodities should be controlled to ensure that these are within the reach of the common man.
R. C. SHARMA, Kurukshetra
The Budget in common parlance means annual estimate of revenue expenditure. It gives details of works and projects on which amount is to be spent, and the sources of revenue. During the last few months, the prices of essential commodities have risen considerably. A common man is reeling under the pressure of hiked prices; he is unable to adjust his household budget. The Budget to be presented before Parliament by the Union Finance Minister should, therefore, attempt to reduce inflation and made provision for urgent development works in the social sector. A self-generating economy should aim to remove poverty and illiteracy and create job opportunities.
G. R. KALRA, Chandigarh
Stop playing with figures
As far as the Budget preparations are concerned, there is nothing new and better in sight for the people. The persons preparing our Budget do nothing but play with figures. As per the desires of their political heads, they shift figures from one head to another, and if they still need more money, they impose taxes in rotation. Sometimes, they announce that they would ensure better agricultural field, and sometimes, they favour bettering the industrial side of this country. When they give relaxation to one group, the other is taxed to recover the losses. They play with a small figure and keep moving small sums from one column to another. The government is usually interested in spending on populist projects. It is said that more people in power are actually commission agents in disguise; therefore, construction works are most favoured. Planners, administrators, executers and supervisors are going to eat three-fourths of this pie; be warned.
DALIP SINGH WASAN, Patiala