Union Budget 2015-16: Tipping the Scales?

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[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]U[/mks_dropcap]nion Budget 2015-16 was presented amidst fervent hopes tempered with diverse insecurities. The BJP having swept to polls last year largely on the ‘Development’ card, the common man hoped not to be taken for a casual ride this time. While the opposition cried the ‘pro-corporate, anti-poor’ rhetoric, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was found promoting the round-the-clock, round-the-year government narrative. “The credibility of the Indian economy has been re-established, the world is predicting that it’s India’s chance to fly,” avowed Mr. Jaitley. With the many benefits to middle-class taxpayers such as the increase in the limit of deduction of health insurance premium, the increase in the deduction limit towards the expenditure with respect to specified diseases of serious nature in case of very senior citizens, additional deduction for differently-abled persons, service-tax exemption on Varishtha Bima Yojana; FM might have managed to generate many a smile but surely not devoid of apprehensions. The hike in service tax and education cess, with the reduction in corporate tax served as differently seasoned morsels of a seemingly fine dish. The safety net for the vulnerable sections of the society in the form of three insurance schemes– Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana which will cover accidental death insurance, Atal Pension Yojana, a contributory pension scheme and the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana to provide natural and accidental death insurance were hailed but criticized mainly on the grounds of being too far-fetched for the poor. Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan also pushed for the enactment of a ‘universal pension scheme’ to ensure “true social security” (The Hindu, 1st March, 2015). The additional surcharge to be levied on the rich taxpayers is a fine move towards striking a balance.  A stringent law for black-money hoarders and the proposed Indian Financial Code were good pointers, notwithstanding the fact that making of laws is one thing in India and implementation is another. In a bid to “cut overseas gold demand”, Gold Monetisation Scheme has been proposed by Mr. Jaitley. This will indeed be a game-changer as has been promised, if done with all seriousness and intent. Also, the NDA government has surprisingly allocated funds to the already existing schemes such as MGNREGA that were being dubbed as ‘baggage’ of the UPA government. However, the doubling-up of the Nirbhaya Fund and the allocation of Rs. 1,000 crore to the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme, came as confirmatory steps towards women issues. Countless schemes have managed to budge the national conscience in the affirmative, but the morrows shall ultimately settle on the intent and substance.

Hopeless; resulting from the successive failures of his own electoral choices, the common man has nothing but Hope to his last resort. We hope that the proposed shade of development does not come with over-priced tags that we, at the moment, cannot afford. Or shall we do it at the cost of the poor? Indian politics needs a breath of fresh air, urgently. With reference to the Union Budget, the signs are slightly hazy but definitely not absent.

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