In a pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister P Chidambaram here on Thursday, Congress leaders have asked the UPA government to increase the taxable income exemption limit to Rs 4 lakh from the current Rs 2 lakh, while suggesting a pro-people budget with sops for the middle class and farmers keeping the upcoming elections in mind.
The meeting was held at the Congress party headquarters. With the rise in fuel prices impacting the ‘aam aadmi’, the meeting saw suggestions for varied pricing of petrol, diesel and cooking gas for people living below poverty line and low income group.
Senior party leader Oscar Fernandes suggested there was a need to bring down the dependence on petroleum import and more focus on having alternative sources of energy like ethanol, sources said. Fernandes also wanted the government to reduce tax on bidis, noting that employment levels were coming down in the labour-intensive sector due to current tax slab.
Congress leader Jagdish Tytler suggested that the budget should be formulated in a way that helps the party to connect with people as elections were ahead, sources said.
AICC Secretary P Sudhakar Reddy mooted raising the tax exemption limit of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 4 lakh, which was endorsed by many other office bearers. He also advised linking Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme with agriculture to help meet the shortage of farm labour in the sector, besides offering three-year interest-free loans to small farmers for their children’s education.
Suggestions were also made by party leaders for gender budgeting. Reddy advised the Finance Minister that female assessees could be given higher tax exemption limit.
There were also demands by many leaders for bringing more clarity on the service tax as it was being interpreted differently in various states.
Minority Department Chairman Imran Kidwai demanded increase in outlay of the Minority Affairs Ministry and allocation of more funds to minority institutions. He also advised formulation of special scheme for Most Backward Classes for their financial inclusion.
Senior party leader Ajit Jogi complained that central funds were being diverted in many non-congress ruled states by the respective governments, suggesting some mechanism should be developed to check this, “The finance minister told us what are the difficulties and how the Indian economy was kept at a balance despite the tough global economic scenario. Thirty-two of the 46 office bearers present spoke on various issues related to farmers, weavers, education, health and income tax,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters after the meeting.
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