Union Budget and the urban muddled class

We cannot afford a new one, thanks to the new levies on all manner of electronic appliances in the budget.

The day after India’s Honourable Finance Minister presented the Union Budget for the coming financial year, India’s urban middle class got into a bit of a tizzy, trying to get their heads round the small print to figure out if there was anything in the budget that they could raise a toast to. In fact, Mr. Seetharama of Malleswaram in Bengaluru asked his wife Savithri, precisely the same question.

‘Is there anything Savithri, in this budget that we can raise a toast to?’ The harried lady of the house, frazzled by the morning pressures of getting breakfast ready for the family, stormed out of the kitchen with a smoking, blackened burnt toast in her hand, expostulating, ‘You want toast Mr. Family Man, here it is, nicely burnt to a crisp. The toaster has given up the ghost, and we cannot afford a new one, thanks to the new levies on all manner of electronic appliances in the budget. So you can dunk that charred toast in your weak tea and drink it black, which is the colour it will become’. Mr. Seetharama knew better than to start an argument with his wife and made a dignified exit.

Meanwhile, in the distinctly middle class neighbourhood of Dadar in Mumbai, recently retired banker Mr. Sarwate was going over his financial portfolio with his mutual fund consultant, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 29 year old whiz kid, Anant Patel. ‘Listen young Anant, I don’t know what to make of this budget. The smart alecks on television kept referring to something called LTCG, and it took me over an hour to cotton on to the abbreviation for Long Term Capital Gains. Now I am completely foxed as to whether the 10% tax on this blasted abbreviation is going to hurt my family budget, or not. Then there is something called Dividend Distribution Tax, at the hands of the fund company. Will that affect me or not? And what the hell is STT? Come on kiddo, it’s time to earn your extortionate consultancy fee’.

‘Chin up Mr. Sarwate, you have nothing to worry. As you are aware, this budget is primarily agrarian directed. You know, farmers, fields, harvesting, tractors, tillers, fertilizers and so on’.

‘Yes, yes, I know what the word agrarian means, dammit. Just get on with it, will you?’ barked the justifiably miffed Mr. Sarwate.

‘Sorry Sir, got carried away. This mega health insurance scheme cover is for 50 crores of people, and the money has to come from somewhere. Hence this LTCG business. And let’s not lose sight of MSP. The Government clearly has an eagle eye on the 2019 general elections. I wouldn’t worry my bald head over it, sorry don’t take that personally. We’ll all be bald someday, ha ha. Once the ruling party comes back to power in 2019, and it surely will, all these taxes will be removed, and things will be tickety boo again. It’s a zero sum game. Now about this National Infrastructure Fund, shall we say Rs 6 lakhs on the equity option?’

Mr. Sarwate looks quite glassy eyed by now. ‘Zero sum game, eh? Don’t know what it means, but looks like my books are all adding up to zero. And the Sensex has tanked. I’ll keep my 6 lakhs for now in my bank FD, thank you very much.

And sleep peacefully. Oh, and the next time you refer to my bald head, I shall summon our roadside barber, and have your head completely shaved. So put that in your laptop and save it’.

As always, the upper classes get it in the neck during budget time, the poor saps. Two top corporate honchos were blubbing over their single malts at a five star restaurant in Delhi. ‘I should have bought that second Lexus last month. Now, I have to pay through my nose, thanks to the budget. But kya karega, I promised Pinky a Lexus and I’ll have to get it, cost no bar’.

‘Pinky?’ queried his friend. ‘I thought your wife’s name was Nimmi’.
‘Who said anything about wife, yaar? And what about you? What happened to that Van Cleef & Arpels necklace you were getting from Paris for you-know-who?’
‘Like your Lexus, I should have got it before February 1. Now I have to pay customs duty through every orifice in my body. Anyway, I have to fly to Paris next week, so there’s no getting away from it. Finance Ministers don’t understand these things when they make their proposals’.

‘Yeah’, replied his friend mournfully. ‘It’s no joke being rich. Let’s drink to our sorrows. Waiter, two large Glenfiddich 18 please, neat’.

There’s good news in this year’s budget for the elderly. One will still have to read the small print in the Finance Bill to figure out what exactly ‘elderly’ means, but if you haven’t quite made it to the walking stick stage, you’re in luck. For instance, buying a walking stick and / or walkers while you’re still fit and able could be a shrewd investment for the future. We hear items of this nature are going for a song and going out of stock. If I were you, I’d grab that set of imported false teeth at the earliest. They are literally flying off the shelves.

Finally, it’s great to know that the government is estimating that the fiscal deficit for the current year will end at 3.5% of GDP against the target of 3.2% and next year’s target is 3.3% against 3%. My friend’s 99 year old aunt cackled with delight on hearing that, whatever that means! She nearly choked on her porridge.

Even more delightful is the Finance Minister’s revelation that substantial salary hikes are in store for the President, Vice President, Governors and that a route for automatic increases for Members of Parliament is in place. That was one announcement that received raucous approval cutting across party lines! Who wouldn’t want to be an MP, eh?
(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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