Better Safe Than Sorry?

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Budget 2013

Many of us have been waiting for this since the beginning of this year right? And the curiosity increased as we approached 28th Feb. So here are the highlights of the day.

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You can also read all of this in detail in our Finance Minister’s speech: http://www.scribd.com/doc/127740560/Budget-2013-2014-Speech-of-P-Chidambaram

Now that you are aware of the basic points I am going to talk about something that affects me directly. Because frankly speaking I don’t understand what this fiscal deficit thing is.

The first spark in Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s budget came in the form of an announcement of all-woman banks across the country. Probably, because no one had seen that coming. These banks are to be set by October this year.

At first this sounds really interesting and rejuvenating but when you think about it, what is the future of such banks?

It’s definitely to fund issues related to the safety of women. Like the FM pointed out, it will create employment for women and help fund enterprises floated by women.  However, there is little that the budget had to encourage women to turn entrepreneurs.

As Kavita Krishnan from AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association) points out, “Women in India don’t have the basic health facilities. Thousands of villages don’t have a single primary healthcare centre, there are no gynecologists, pregnancy deaths are so common, how will the bank help all these women? We immediately need a facility that helps detect the various forms of cancer women are susceptible to… women in villages don’t have any facility to detect the disease till it has spread fatally.”

Also there seems to be three classes; the poor, the middle class and the rich. So going by that division, the poor women don’t have enough money to save, and the middle class and rich women who earn and wish to save have their accounts already. So what is the need of gender based banks?

Nevertheless, keeping in mind the reality of the situation, Chidambaram’s idea of all women bank comes only as a feel good statement.

The Finance Minister must have hoped to hear cheers when he announced the Nirbhaya Fund. However not everyone was flattered.

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Chidambaram also said, “I urge the Ministry for Women and Child Development to figure out strategies to utilise this fund and make the country safer for women.”

How is 1000 crore rupees going to help women feel safe while walking alone? And what’s worse is that our government seems to think that the only vulnerable women in this country are widows and sexually assaulted women.

What about the women who are the sole breadwinners of their family? There was nothing in the budget about them.

Chidambaram has also allocated 1000 crore rupees for the youth. If we try and distribute this money among the 60 crore Indian youngsters (approx.), they all get four rupees (approx.) per day. Man how I wish to get an admission into the best college of the country…

Thank you Mr. Finance Minister.

And there was something for all you tech enthusiasts as well.

Yes, I feel the pleasure in informing you that there is an increase in the excise duty of phones that cost more than 2000 rupees. The excise duty on phones that cost above 2000 rupees has been raised from one percent to six percent now.

The bad part is that a phone that earlier cost 10,000 rupees will now cost 10,495 rupees (approx.); ones that cost 20,000 will approximately cost 20,990 rupees (again approx.) and so on.

Here is how the renowned mobile company members reacted and they aren’t wrong:

Asim Wasri, Vice President Samsung mobiles, said, “The increase in the excise duty on mobile phones will not have a positive impact on the mobile industry and should lead to an increase in prices for end consumers.”

“The mobile phone segment is very competitive. But we have no option but to increase prices. It is a hard Budget for the mobile phone segment,” Lava Founder and Director S N Rai said.

“The Government’s decision to keep concessional excise duty of 1% intact on mobile phones in the sub-Rs. 2,000 category is welcome,” P. Balaji, VP and Managing Director, Nokia India, said. “However, we would request the Finance Minister to roll back excise duty increase on mobile phones beyond Rs. 2,000, as mobile phones are the primary mode of access to information and services; a tool for learning, development and income generation for the youth and non -urban consumers.”

And since even the basic Micromax phone costs 4000 rupees, anybody who has been saving up to buy the latest phone needs to take a step back and think.

There are a lot of things that I haven’t talked about because frankly speaking there is nothing in it for the youngsters like you and me or anybody for that matter. And the fact that it is not decisive enough in any direction.

This year’s budget has not lived up to expectations perhaps because the FM wanted to be safe rather than sorry, keeping in mind the general elections next year.

He wants to live to fight another day, let’s just see how many.

Shraddha Jandial

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