Control 'Mehangai': Aam Aadmi to FM

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New Delhi, Feb 27: With soaring prices of essential goods and services as his major cause for concern, the 'aam aadmi' is highly curious to know what 'gifts' Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram will take out of his suitcase for the common man on February 29. ''I request Mr Chidambaram to take into account the increase in prices of food items and LPG cylinders,'' says Smriti Arora, a housewife. Besides cheaper goods and services and stability in overall prices, higher exemption in personal income tax rates is also on the wish list of the common man.

''It is not easy to run a home on a fixed amount. So, I don't want more tax on my husband's income either. Mr Chidambaram's Budget speech should not upset my home budget,'' Smriti adds. Like many who feel that this year, the Finance Minister will try to 'please' every section of society in his budget, coming as it does a little over a year ahead of the next elections, a customer service officer at ICICI, Bhawna Prasher, feels that Mr Chidambaram will provide some tax breaks to women. ''After all, we also contribute to the growing economy and to the vote bank too,'' she says.

On the one side, there are politicians who argue that the Budget 2008-09 should be pro-people, while on the other side is a section of the younger generation which favours opening of more branded showrooms and reduction of taxes on the use of plastic money.

''Our generation is brand conscious, we are techno-savvy and we don't believe in carrying too much of cash. So I wish there should be more retail outlets of branded products, national as well as international plus the Finance Minister should reduce the tax on use of ATM, debit and credit cards,'' Subha Dagar, a first year student at Delhi University, said.

However, there are several like Ramesh, a washerman, who feels that the budget has always focussed on the 'rich' and the presence of low paid or unskilled labourers did not matter to the Minister.

''These Ministers come to us just for votes. After that they forget even our existence. For us, there are hardly any loans available. I don't understand what the budget is. I just know that over a period, everything has been getting costlier,'' Ramesh adds.

Echoing the concern of the common man and indifferent towards the plea for raising income tax ceiling, a business analyst at MphasiS, Bangalore, Ankit Khandelwal says, ''Personally, a hike in income tax rate does not affect me much. The Sensex is doing good, there are FIIs and FDIs. But we should not ignore the common man who is contributing to the nine per cent growth. The Budget is not only about revenue and expenditure.'' He offers the suggestion, ''If the Government actually wants to do something for the common man, then it should try to reduce the inflation rate and there should be enhanced outlays for agriculture, rural development, education and health.'' With his or her own perception of 'India Shining', everyone has some expectations from Mr Chidambaram and the suspense will continue till he presents the budget in Parliament on Friday.

UNI

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