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You've squeezed commonman, left rich untouched: Yechri to FM

By Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 13 (UNI) Putting the 2006-2007 Budget under sharp scrutiny for what he called its ''anti-commonman and anti-farmer character'', CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri today said Finance Minister P Chidambaram has avoided taxing the rich while ''sqeezing the commonman'' further of his hard-earned money.

The budget was also unfavourable to the rural poor and farmers in reducing subsidy on food, abolishing food for work programme and doing nothing to expand credit in rural areas, he said taking part in the budget discussion in the Rajya Sabha.

Mr Yechuri said there was a vast scope for taxing the rich, but the government chose to further tax only the salaried and the middle-class.

He said the whopping increase in the gross tax revenue and 29 per cent saving rate was coming because of further squeeze on the pocket of the commonman. Out of Rs 70,000 tax collected, the share of arrears was only Rs 10,000, and that proved that the amount had come from taxing the already over-taxed people.

The pre-tax surpluses for the rich have increased and there was a vast potential to widen the tax net on the rich but the Finance Minister has chosen not to touch them, said Mr Yechuri.

Criticising the reduction in food subsidy, he said the purpose of the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme would be defeated if the people had no power to purchase food. ''You have got to expand the Public Distribution System (PDS) to make the scheme a success,'' he said.

Besides, the government has reduced interest rate on loan to farmers only to seven per cent as against the Sawaminathan Committee's recommendation for four per cent, he pointed out, adding that the budget has also been unfair to small industry by dereserving 180 items.

He also described the allocation for education and health sector as very meagre and criticised the reduction in central assistance to states as unfortunate. ''The move would help states in falling prey to international funding agencies with unfair conditionalities,'' he said.

The CPI(M) leader said the framework of the budget itself was a matter of concern. In this context, he strongly criticised the decision to allow the mutual funds abroad, allowing greater role to Foreign Institutional Investors and reducing the peak customs duty from 50 to 12.5 per cent.

All these steps would only weaken the indigenous industry and economic base of the country as a whole, Mr Yechuri said.

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