Why is the budget such a big deal?…. By Pritish Nandy

You may think I am stupid but I have a question. Why do we make such a huge tamasha over the Budget that’s presented to Parliament every year on the last day of February? Is it really important to India or is it, like the IPL, Navratri, Christmas, Salman Khan’s new girlfriend and Republic Day– just one more colourful event on our annual calendar?

To begin with, how many of us understand the Budget? Not me, for sure. All I do is look for stuff that could either save me taxes or reduce costs. Most years, neither happen. But hope springs eternal in the human heart. So I listen to the analysts, read a couple of articles the next morning to see if I have missed out anything. Usually, there’s nothing. Our finance ministers don’t like the middle class. It’s the poor they keep talking about. It sounds good and politically correct. And seeing the terrible poverty all around us, we shut up when taxes are increased in the name of the poor. Whether the money ever reaches the poor is another matter altogether.

Secondly, how many of us plan for the Budget and stay one step ahead? Not me again. I steel myself for whatever the Budget may bring and send up a small prayer that it should not make life any more difficult than it already is. Till now, for as way back as I can remember, every Budget has hurt the common man (and me) in some way or the other. I can’t even remotely recall when a Budget brought joy to anyone I know. No, no, I am not talking about businessmen, builders and those who bet on stocks. We are discussing you and me. The best a Budget has ever done for me is to let me heave a sigh of relief and say: Phew, it wasn’t half as bad as I feared!

The number of finance ministers I have survived is long: Sachin Chaudhuri, Morarji Desai (famous for taxing us more than we earned), Mrs Gandhi, YB Chavan, C Subramaniam, HM Patel, Charan Singh, R Venkataraman, Pranab Mukherjee (yes he was there long before Manmohan Singh came on the scene), VP Singh, SB Chavan, Madhu Dandavate, Yashwant Sinha, Manmohan Singh (who started the reforms process), P Chidambaram, followed by Sinha again, Jaswant Singh, Chidambaram again, Manmohan Singh again and Pranab Mukherjee yet again. In short, from 1998, we have had a serious dearth of FMs. The same guys kept coming back. No wonder their approach towards the Budget hasn’t changed.

Apart from abandoning hypocritical socialist rhetoric, there has been no real change in policy. The Licence Raj survives and, yes, bureaucrats still rule the roost. But businessmen today have more access to the Byzantine corridors of power and, as we have seen recently, unabashedly lobby for favours. Very often they get away with some serious loot, otherwise described as incentives. More billionaires have been created in the last few years than in six decades of Independence. Is this good for India? I have no idea. But I see everyone around me falling over themselves to praise every success story, even those with dubious antecedents. Profit, a dirty word in the seventies, is now the most admired noun in our political lexicon.

But does the Budget reflect popular expectations? I seriously doubt it. I even doubt whether it reflects political expediency or what the PM describes as coalition compulsions. Budgets don’t do anything for anyone. The only people who ever get anything out of it are tiny groups. Like 80+ pensioners will get some tax relief this year. Less than 5000 tax payers will benefit out of this token act of magnanimity. Whereas year on year, the same group of salaried employees, professionals and middle class businessmen get squeezed more and more. Despite pious promises of more reforms, tax collectors are getting a stronger mandate to wield power. The poor may ignore them. The rich can manage them. It’s the middle class that’s perpetually caught between a rock and a hard place. And the more the Government collects in taxes, the more its greed and profligacy grow.

So why is the Budget such a big deal? Why is there so much speculation, so much anticipation when nothing ever happens? In a year when prices of food rose to scary levels, the tax free income threshold went up from Rs 14,000 a month to Rs 15,000. By this yardstick, every slum dweller in Mumbai becomes a taxpayer. Why can’t we be more realistic and stop taxing people who earn below Rs 30,000 a month? In any case, they pay an absurd amount of indirect taxes on everything they buy or sell. On top of that, every year we become more insensitive to people’s needs. Like the taxes introduced this year on doctors, medicines, hospitals. Like the tax on rent. On bank interest, old age pensions. Sometimes I wonder if governments make budgets with the sole intent of losing votes. What other reason can there be?


45 Responses to “Why is the budget such a big deal?…. By Pritish Nandy”

  1. So far as I know, the budget is an allocation of funds for expenses.

    The don and her hitmen expropriate those funds from the people who live in their territory.

    I have never paid direct taxes since ’64. I was not an Indian before that. In fact I can safely confess that I was not even born before ’64.

    I do not believe that the indirect taxes I pay are used for my benefit. It is mostly used to provide security cover for celebrities and filmstars. There is a celebrity who pays his housemaid from the taxes taken from me.

    The celebrity drives in a bullet-proof car which is purchased from my money that I could have used for buying more food from an honest farmer.

    Last year I had found another way of denying them those pleasures. I purchased only foreign goods in foreign countries. However, I must admit, that trick did not work.

    The don printed paper currency and used it for herself. The currency got its value from my assets. So my assets lost the value which got transformed into printed money that the don used for buying real goodies for herself!

    It’s a dummy’s game. Anyone who doesn’t value currency as a real asset is bound to lose.

    • And our money goes into the band, baaja, baarat fanfare that I wrote about. Worst is the service tax on health care. It cannot get worse. But, even if the “budget” is no big deal as per PN, it is a big deal because it affects my pocket and I dont have any change to spare. Thanks for clarifying where you were pre 64!..:))

      • Read the extract from The Hindu I put on the previous page for you. It is important for you as a blogger. The Executive Orders are enforced by means of the IT Act.

  2. Making Headlines now

    Today, all news shall be given with reference to Woman’s Day, whether it is relevant or not:

    A lobby of English speaking women have demanded that 50% of the seats in the Lok Sabha amd Rajya Sabha should be reserved for women. It is learnt from reliable sources that the speaker will table a motion this afternoon to move 50% of the chairs to the gardens outside the parliament house.

    An 84 year old woman was murdered in New Delhi today. Another 31 year old woman was murdered in East Delhi. Another 22 Year old woman Delhi University student was shot dead. My-name-is-Sheila says Delhi is the most unsafe city for women as compared to Calcutta, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

    Meanwhile in Mumbai today, a woman died when she jumped off the 19th floor of a building in Malad. She was not murdered. “Stupid building”

    On the auspicious occassion of Woman’s Day, The United Nations and NATO have declared a no-flying zone for humans over the nation of Libya.

    Woman’s Day resulted in a spike in the share market. The sensex closed at a high of 18739.

    Madhuri Dikshit, a known woman from bollywood, will show western dances on a reality TV show called ‘Jhalak Dikhala Ja”. Abhi-sheikh Bachchan, who is not known to be a woman, will be the star guest.

    On Woman’s Day today the live cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand was watched by many women. The TV cameras payed special attention to the photogenic faces among them.

    • Check out PN tweets on women’s day..one of them reads – How about forming a club today, as tribute to Woman’s Day? Charlie Sheen, Shane Warne, Tiger Woods, Berlusconi, Gaddafi founding members?

  3. Breaking News:

    On Woman’s Day today, Dayandhi Maran, Alagiri and Stalin of the DMK sealed a deal with the Congress Party for the forthcoming assemnly polls in the Indian state of Tamilnadu. The DMK agreed to let the Congress contest the elections for 63 seats. The DMK did not agree to 69, thus holding their heads high in the eyes of their supporters. The Congress Party President, Sonio, has agreed to 63.

  4. β€œIf a woman is sufficiently ambitious, determined and gifted – there is practically nothing she can’t do” – Helen Lawrenson

  5. Woman’s Day special:

    The successful pregnancy and birth rate in India is 1768 deliveries per hour.

    As per the census of August 2010, the overall birth rate among Hindus has declined by 21.5 % in India since 2005.

    Women need to spend more time in the offices than in maternity care. May the gender become wealthy and prosperous.

    • This woman’s day thingy must be some English diplomat’s brainwave. What a trade-off! Give one day to the woman and keep the rest of the year for yourself. A daniel come to justice!

      It’s 9th March today. Woman’s Day won’t be back for another year.

      Lets hope the world will have new women next year.

      • Or lets dedicate 365 days to the women and the 1/4 to the men..

      • I said that in good humor.

        Personally I feel, there is no cause for dividing time by gender.

        We are already divided in so many other ways.

        I’d divide people into just two types. The deceptive Ma Baker type stickers and the self-made, righteous individuals – the fakes and the genuine respectively.

        The gender doesn’t matter.

      • Of course I know you are clowning around, so was I ..:) Agree.. time cannot be divided .. its an equal world.. actions may be different but the objectives of the genders are the same..

      • MonaLisa Says:

        Hmm..It definitely sounds like other trade offs…Mother’s day, Father’s day, Thanks giving day…etc etc.
        Celebrate on that particular day and you are safe all other 364 days..
        Hahaha…yep..! you men have a very ingenius way to bring everything to justice ..your way..! πŸ™‚
        We…poor women…!
        New women…in new year..next year..!? What’s that suppose to mean..!? Sounds like you are so bored with the present ones.. πŸ™‚
        Does it mean ..you won’t see any woman existing right now through out the year..!? πŸ™‚

      • MonaLisa,

        How can we have the same woman’s day every year? Every year should be celebrated for new women.

        Like we have days for the beginning of a new harvest season for a new crop.

        Is there any reason for having a woman’s day otherwise?

    • MonaLisa Says:

      Give it a break..! Will..ya..!? πŸ™‚
      You are implying it as if women are nothing but a machine… A baby making machine…!

      • MonaLisa,

        You must correct me if my information is not right.

        I was told by some very learned people that in India generaly only the women become pregnant and deliver babies.

        Reading statistics is an art.

        Out of the 650 million females of the human species in India, only 1768 deliver a baby every hour. If we round that to 2000, to cater for the marginal numbers who live in the deep forests and some NRIs who are in the US and other countries, then we have 48000 new babies from old babies every day.

        Multiply that by 300 in a year, excluding national holidays, we have 14,400,000 unique hits every year.

        Now I feel that is some gigantic machinary!!!

        I know I know, some affected customers prefer to blame God. But I don’t see that as a good practice.

      • MonaLisa Says:

        Never knew ppl get new father and mother every year on Father’s day and Mother’s day… if you apply it that way..
        Comparing a woman with a harvest…and seasonal crop..! Man..! you need deep cleansing of you mind..!
        About baby making Machine…well…! If a woman is all that..Who is responsible for that..!? Get them all and deal with them Sanjay Gandhi style…
        Machine..gigantic or small…won’t operate on its own…! Your problem solved… πŸ™‚

      • I am glad you are not denying anything I said. You are only unhappy about it. Cool.

        Lets hope in another 50 years from now you might feel differently.

        About half of the 650 million are women who are past their age of producing children. I am sure they are not useless.

        Remember what I always say. A mother is not a woman. A mother is a mother.

      • Reader,

        As soon as a woman becomes a mother, she ceases to be a woman?

        By your logic there would be no problem with world overpopulation.

      • Renate, MonaLisa,

        We are repeating every word of what we have said about this before. Either my memory is too good or you are wasting your time.

        Let that go. I don’t have to be semantically fluent about a mother. At least not mine. I don’t know about the rest of the world. I am happy with my own.

      • Yes, Reader, you may love your Mother as unsemantically as you like.

        You might still get challenged about the logic of your statements sometimes.

        I understand and I will let it go herewith.

        Peace. πŸ™‚

      • Yes. You are right. I’ll be careful not to exhibit them on a platform where they can be challenged. I would hate to argue against cynicism or humiliation of a mother, even if mine has been happily dead for quite some time now.

  6. Anand Khare Says:

    I could never understand any budget, account, P&L statement, balance sheet etc of any company(one page normally) leave aside country’s budgets (a truck load). Different CAs and tax experts will give different interpretation to such statements for their client’s convinience and their benefits. So Mr. PN you are not the only one who may sound stupid.

    I am compelled to reproduce one of my comments earlier made on Sharmila’s blog on her meeting with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Quite strangely. I can feel it is once again relevant on such a dry topic of budget. I quote myself,;)

    “There are persons who can write poetry, and there are persons who can read balance sheets. The persons who can read balance sheets cannot write.

    But your write ups prove this adage to be wrong. However,This particular one is like a mini skirtβ€” What it reveals is interesting, what it hides may be mind boggling. I hope you will be able to recall what you actually talked with Mr.Bachchan and would consider it worthwhile to share the details with all of us.”

    Just to add, there are persons like me who can neither write properly nor read balance sheets. What they may sound like?:D.

  7. Read this somewhere:

    Women are like oxygen. They don’t make water till they are attached to at least two hydrogens.

    On the other hand, when nine such women come together with 3 hydrogens, 4 nitrogens and 3 carbons they make nitro-gylcerine, an explosive substance used in ammunition.

    • Ha Ha.. i know who you mean..

    • MonaLisa Says:

      πŸ™‚ Good one..! Beware..! It can doom your entire world…men’s world..! hahaha..

    • MonaLisa Says:

      Now stop sounding ridiculous…from what part of my post did you find affirmative..!?
      Motherhood is a privilege or you can say it ..A task offered by nature…
      But in the process it always takes two to filfill the requirements… so you can’t blame a woman entirely for overpopulation… ! If anyone…! It’s always A Man…whom should be considered responsible for the entire hohum and chaos in the world..
      In your words machine produces only when and till the supply of raw material lasts…No Supply…No Production….So..cut off the source of supply… πŸ™‚
      Machine will stop automatically…. πŸ™‚
      BTW A Woman doesn’t cease to be a woman acquiring The Hood…Motherhood…! A Girlhood,womanhood,motherhood etc…are different phases of life of a female…
      Entering into different phases of life doesn’t take anything away…from the person…it just adds up a little flavor into one’s life with every change..everytime…

  8. My video embed.. had me in splits.. Cricket song from Pakistan for the WC..

    • BTW, the lyrics are all wrong…

      It should be thus:

      7 matches, 100 overs of 6 balls each
      O Lord! My Savior! Thou do I beseach

      My team will get all of 4,200 deliveries
      At 1 lakh a ball that is 42 crore rupees

      Bless the Queen! London be my home
      Please ensure O Lord! I get an asylum

  9. I do understand the Indian budget, though not completely. But since we are also on the topic of “woman’s day”, I do understand that when you are in a relationship with a woman, there is no such thing as “budget”. Understanding that is more important.

  10. Ninad,

    Good to see you guys are catching on.

    Perhaps Woman’s Day is good for something if it drives these truths home.. πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

  11. Reader..
    Strings are managed by you …not me so..my post appears anywhere in the wrong place is not my fault atall..
    Glad…you take it back that “Women are baby making machines” by glorifying and paying due rspect to “Motherhood”

    • I hate to disappoint young girls like you. It’s better to remain silent than be the cause of your frustrations. Lets hope you are right and find your paradise in good time.

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