Travel, movies, shopping get costlier: Budget 2015 finds no middle class takers

Kuch toh phool khilaye hai humne, kuch aur khilane hai. Diqqat yeh hai ki raahon mein kai kaante purane hain (I have made some flowers bloom, and many are yet to be bloomed. But I have to negotiate many old thorns that lie strewn on the path) - beginning his Budget presentation with this couplet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may have summed up well his challenges and predicament, but the middle class seems to be tired of listening to the same things again and again. It expected a burst of good news in the Budget, but ended up a bit disappointed.

The reaction to the Budget among the middle class was mixed with some calling it ‘forward looking’ which ‘will help the economy in the long run’. The dominant mood, however, was one of dismay.

“It is a forward looking budget with emphasis on skill development and entrepreneurship. It will help people in the long term,” said young businessman Amit Kumar Jha, who runs an online portal to sell Darjeeling tea. But he also added, “Understanding the basic dynamics and constraints, it is not up to the expectations of the middle income group.”

Kamlesh Kumar, a corporate sector employee in the national capital, feels “deceived”. “We have been deceived on every front in the Budget 2015. There is no respite in the form of increased tax slabs that remains unchanged from Rs 2.5 lakh. The hike in Service Tax will cause a bigger hole in the pocket of salaried persons like us,” he said.

The government increased the service tax to 14 percent from the current 12.36 percent to “facilitate smooth transition to levy of tax on services by both the centre and the states”. The revised rate, which will come into effect from a date to be notified, will make costlier a host of activities like air travel, eating out at restaurants, paying mobile and internet bills, visiting beauty parlours, stay in hotels, dry cleaning of clothes, purchasing of branded clothes, cable and DTH services, courier service, credit and debit card related services, asset management and insurance, stock broking and all other things that require availing of service from another party.

 Travel, movies, shopping get costlier: Budget 2015 finds no middle class takers

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However, the Finance minister spared common people from price hikes on many commonly used day-to-day items by reducing duties.

Khayyam Khan, a businessman who deals in wholesale of mobile handsets and accessories, said, “As Goods and Services Tax is expected to reduce the red tapism involved in Sales Tax, the business community was waiting for key announcements on GST so that inter-state business becomes easy. We are a disappointed lot.”

Although Nupur Das, a Political Science student at Delhi University, is happy that the government has tried to address the concerns of the education sector,t he is not sure how efficient the promises turn out to be. “Mr Jaitley has said in his budget speech that the government will ensure no student misses on higher education due to lack of funds and promised to set up an educational loan scheme for higher education. He has also announced that more educational institution will be set up. It will be interesting to see how efficient these proposals and promises turn out to be,” he said.

Jaitley has announced to set up an IIT in Karnataka and upgradation of Dhanbad’s Indian School of Mines to IIT; AIIMS in Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Tamil Nadu; IIM in Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir; University of Disability Studies in Kerala; PG institute of Horticulture in Amritsar and Centre of film production, animation and gaming in Arunachal Pradesh.

For Mansi Sharma, a young professional, it was a “photocopy” budget of the previous regime. “It was a photocopy of UPA government’s budgets and had nothing for poor. Why was Corporate Tax reduced and Service Tax increased? The message is clear: snatch from the poor and feed the rich,” she observed.

Taking a jibe the much talked about ‘achche din’, she said, “After budget speech was made in Parliament, petrol and diesel prices were increased. So much for ‘achche din’!”

Md Reyaz, a research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia, finds “nothing significant” in the budget. “The country was expecting big bang reforms, but sadly there was nothing extraordinary in the budget. All the proposed reforms are painful for common people like us,” he added.

Satirist Rahul Pandey responded on a lighter note but didn’t forget to be offensive. “Those in high offices should increase their security cover as leather shoes has been made cheaper. But the service will be a little costly as the tax rate has been hiked,” he said.

Another such comment came from Sandeep Kumar who said, “Shayad, angrezi budget bhashan padhne wale Arun Jaitleyji ko yeh pata nahin tha ki ‘Babaji Ka Thullu’ ko English men kya kahte hain, warna woh saaf saaf bata dete (Perhaps, Arun Jaitley, who delivered budged speech in English, did not know how to translate into English ‘Babaji Ka Thullu’- a famous punchline of a comedy show being hosted by actor Kapil Sharma that means for when you do something in hopes for reward, you get nothing at all – otherwise he would have made it clear.”

Self-employed Rakesh Maloo warned the Modi government of the same fate as the Manmohan Singh-led UPA’s if the former continued with its “pro-rich” policies.

“The BJP will be wiped out from Bihar in the upcoming assembly elections there and it will have to sit on the Opposition if it does not stop fooling people in the name of development and bringing back economy on right track. Its pro-rich policies make the government lose the ground support it had garnered ahead of general elections 2014,” he added.

Updated Date: Mar 01, 2015 11:13:44 IST