NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, March 16 (IANS): As Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday presented the national budget for 2012-13 claiming that the economy was returning to normal, the common man didn't seem convinced. Many people rated his proposals from below average to poor.
With a "marginal hike in the tax exemption slabs" coupled with hiked taxes across most services, the budget is "nothing new", said Mohit Srivastava, an engineer with Jacobs Engineering company in Delhi.
"It's below average. The tax exemption should have been provided up to Rs.5 lakh. That is what most of us expected," he told IANS.
The budget has increased the tax exemption bracket for individuals from Rs.1.8 lakh to Rs.2 lakh, meaning an annual saving of Rs.2,000 for all tax payers. At the same time, the service tax has been increased from 10 to 12 percent, across most sectors which would mean costlier airfares, gold jewellery and cigarettes and higher phone bills.
Investment banker Abhinav Tyagi, 29, claimed that the budget appeared to have been prepared to avoid any controversy or conflicts like the rail budget.
"They have come up with an average budget. Basically, they don't want any more trouble (linked to opposition from government allies) like they had with the rail budget," said Tyagi.
"It's the salaried person who will suffer. I will have to put on hold my decision to buy a new car," he added.
Agreed 40-year-old shopkeeper Raghunandan Jha. He said the budget meant inflated bills and more expenses due to the hike in service tax in most sectors.
"If the bills for services like mobile phones go up, my expenses will go up, leaving me with lesser savings," he claimed.
For some the budget spells trouble.
"My two daughters are to get married later this year and with the gold prices going further up I'll be getting sleepless nights now," 49-year-old homemaker Mamata Karnic told IANS.
"Everybody knows gold is an integral part of Indian marriages irrespective of religion or caste. The middle class is already reeling under the pressure of high gold prices and this budget will only rub salt into our wounds," she added.
"He (Mukherjee) must have married off his daughters long back," said Karnic.
Some people did not find the budget a total disaster.
"If you look at the positive side of the budget, consumer appliances like televisions will be cheaper and so will be lifesaving drugs," said student Aarti Mehra, 24.
In Mumbai, Harshala Nayak, a media professional, said: "There is nothing exciting about the budget this year. I expected the tax exemption limit to be hiked to Rs.300,000 for individuals, but it did not happen. Also the hike in service tax and other duties will only add to our woes."
"The budget has given a thrust to rural development and agriculture sector, which is good. However, it is not so good for salaried individuals. The hike in railway fares is a real killer," said Stavan Mehta, a software professional.
Agreed Urvi Sukhparia, a chartered accountant. "A salaried person will be paying more than the benefit he will get from tax exemption. The subsidies to farmers is the only saving grace," she said.
"I feel this budget is a very basic marketing trick that our finance minister has pulled off. He increased the individual tax exemption to Rs.200,000, so people have some more money to spend, which will help the market. But at the same time he increased the duties, so the money goes back to the system again. We are just being fooled in believing we have more liquidity," said Nikhil Khedekar, an advertising professional.