Clutching at straws
Sir — Fanatics will go to any lengths to prove a point. Take the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its chief, Ashok Singhal (“Singhal springs ‘evidence’ of temple”, Feb 25). It now appears that the VHP had employed a Canadian agency to use a “deep-penetrating” radar system to study the disputed site in Ayodhya, which found the remains of what might be a temple. Now why did not such a brilliant idea strike the government' The discovery of the existence of a temple thousands of years ago on the same site still wouldn’t have been justification enough for the destruction of the mosque, but it would have saved us much heartache, not to speak of reams and reams of newsprint. And pray, why would the Central and Uttar Pradesh government embargo the findings of the survey' Is Singhal implying that they don’t want the matter to be cleared up' Singhal really should get his logic right.
Jayati Basu, Ranchi
Sir — The common man is justifiedly apprehensive about the general budget due to be placed in Parliament on February 28. There are indications that the finance minister will announce the withdrawal of tax concessions, in line with the recommendations of the Vijay Kelkar committee. Why must the budget invariably lead to an increase in the cost of living for salary earners, tax-payers and pensioners' The year has already begun on a bad note for this section of the population with the announcement of a hike in fixed-line telephone user charges.
Economists, who desire a reduction in small savings interest rates, should explain to those living on interest income how it would benefit them. A reduction in income, as a result of falling interest rates, is never compensated for by a fall in the price of essential commodities and decline in the cost of living. Besides, there are no social security schemes in the country to cushion the burden. All those who had opted for voluntary retirement schemes, calculating that the interest income from investing the amount would see them through life, are a disillusioned lot today. Senior citizens are the other hapless victims of such cuts.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Sir — In view of a likely fiscal deficit of around five per cent, there can be no denying the need for a consensus to trim government expenditure. There is also need for more investments in infrastructure and agriculture to promote growth and keep the deficit within reasonable limits. Also, the finance minister would do well to raise the income tax exemption limit somewhat, while retaining the other existing exemptions and rebates.
R.N. Lakhotia, New Delhi
Sir — This year’s budget promises to be a routine affair. As predictable will be the opposition’s criticism of it as anti-poor, anti-developmental and inflationary, among other things.
Our politicians are yet to realize that they have the important duty of seeing to the welfare of the people and the development of the country. But that will be possible only when the ruling party and the opposition work together, constructively and sincerely. Since most of the statistics on the economy are accessible and available, the opposition could easily come up with a shadow budget. Suggestions could also be obtained from business organizations and economists. Perhaps only then will the budget exercise become meaningful.
Suresh K. Sharma, Calcutta
Sir — The prime minister and the finance minister had promised, at different times last year, to take action to minimize the impact of decreasing interest rates of post office and bank saving schemes on senior citizens, mostly the retired and pensioners. Not much has been done to keep this promise, leading one to suspect that the promises were the usual political stunt. Retired citizens like me can only hope that they will be proved wrong in the forthcoming budget.
Subrata Sinha, Burnpur
Sir — The last date for filing income tax returns for assesses of tax audit firms is October 31. But most articled clerks in audit firms are on leave during September-October, preparing for their chartered accountancy examinations held in the first week of November. As a result, many CAs often sign in a hurry in order to avoid being penalized under the Income Tax Act. The finance minister should extend the last date of filing returns by these assessees to November 30.
Saraswat Sarda, Calcutta
Sir — There is speculation that a voluntary disclosure of income scheme will be announced in the forthcoming Union budget, along the lines of similar schemes in earlier years. But given the present economic scenario, characterized by dropping interest rates and recession, such schemes may not be as successful as they were a few years ago. However, VDS schemes, by themselves, are extremely effective tools for recovering taxes and the Centre should re-introduce them with changes to suit present conditions.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — The column, “Talking Point Budget 2003-2004” in the business section is very useful. It should also include aspects of personal finance, inve-stment, taxation, equity, insurance and other important issues.
S. Bose, Calcutta
Sir — The Centre is increasingly veering towards value added tax, a move that should not meet much opposition from the states. In VAT, the difference between the value of the output and the value of the input of a producer is taxed. It is a comprehensive scheme which has the inherent virtue of avoiding double taxation. Besides, it taxes the rich and the poor alike, thus broadening the tax net. The Centre has agreed to bear the expenses of the states which have agreed to adopt VAT. This is a positive and encouraging step in an economy in which tax collection is dismal.
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta