High-end cellphones such as these available at a Ranchi shop will burn a hole in the pocket. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Feb. 28: Living it up is about to become dearer, finds out Ranchi’s yuppies on Thursday as Union finance minister P. Chidambaram presents the general budget 2013-14 that tries to reduce India’s creamy layer into skimmed milk.
In a nutshell, flats, homes, high-end cars, SUVs, bikes, cellphones, silks, air-conditioned restaurants, marble flooring and set-top boxes are some luxuries that residents such as Avik Ghosh (30), a hotel executive in the capital, will find more expensive to own.
He was planning to planning to buy a smartphone next month. But now, Ghosh is unsure. “There is a 6 per cent additional excise duty on all phones costing over Rs 2,000. From scouting windows, iPhone, BB and Android models, I am now left wondering if I should buy one at all. I am plain confused,” he said.
Ghosh added that the Rs 2,000-slab was too low. “What phone can you get for Rs 2,000? It won’t even last a year. The government should have kept the duty-free slab at Rs 4,000-5,000,” he added.
Ranchi’s crème de la crème, who buy and change their hot wheels at will, are a worried lot. In recent times, high-end car manufacturers such as Nissan, Toyota and Chevrolet have set up shops, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are reportedly hunting for franchisees. But the 100 per cent customs duty clamped on SUVs, luxury cars and motor vehicles will impact on those wishing to splurge on cars.
“Let me put it this way. If one has money, one will flaunt. So, I don’t think sales will get too affected as far as status symbols are concerned,” said a Chevrolet official. But he added the 100 per cent customs duty was too much. “Thoda effect hoga. (It will have some impact),” he conceded.
Smokers will get a bad burn on their wallet with higher taxes on cigarettes, cigars, cheroots and alike.
For the average youngster or family man, the extra burden while eating out is definitely unappetising. There is service tax in AC restaurants.
“The Union finance minister should understand that AC restaurants aren’t for the rich. He should eat in Ranchi once to get to know the quality of food dished out at the run-of-the-mill AC joints here,” said Robin Kumar, a young advertising professional who lives alone in the capital.
“Eating out for me is a necessity and now it is set to get more costly,” he grimaced.
Customers also pointed out another problem prevalent in Ranchi.
“Many so-called restaurants put up an ‘air-conditioner’ signage, but when you enter, the AC doesn’t work. When you ask, the guys have a smart answer. ‘Sir, subhe hi kharab ho gaya. (It developed a snag this morning). So, will we get a rebate on additional tax in such case?” asked another.
Like it or not, as Chidambaram said, India must make tough spending choices.
For the Ranchi middle and upper middle classes caught between aspiration and mundane glitches of half-baked urbanisation, the general budget is a reality check at best.
Hotel executive Ghosh, who has still not decided whether to junk his Smartphone dream, however was generous in praising Chidambaram on two counts.
“There is change in slabs and rates for personal income tax. Plus, the initiative for youth and women’s security with funds in the tune of around Rs 1,000 crore each that has been sanctioned this year is a great move,” he said.