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Cong to Pranab: Rationalise I-T slabs, address inflation
February, 16th 2011

Congress has urged Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to address concerns of the aam aadmi, including inflation, in the Union Budget. Congress wishlist for Budget 2011-12 includes rationalisation of Income-Tax slabs, lowering education and home loan interest rates, cash subsidy for the poor, better compensation for land acquired and enhanced allocation for minorities schemes.

Mukherjee had on Tuesday held a meeting with senior leaders of the party, including members of the Congress steering committee, state coordination panels, spokespersons and All India Congress Committee office-bearers. With the recent controversies and corruption issues weighing on his mind, Mukherjee began the meeting with UPAs policy on black money. According to sources, he briefed leaders on steps being taken by the Government to proceed against those who have stashed wealth in foreign banks.

He reiterated that the Government had already revealed the names available to it to the Supreme Court and it was not made public because India was bound by the treaty it signed with Germany for obtaining the names. About 31 persons spoke on the partys expectations from the Union Budget and about 30 gave written suggestions.

Several leaders raised the issue of the poor man being hit the worst at this time. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the common man was plagued by corruption and inflation.

Taking a leaf out of his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumars book, he suggested that farmers and those belonging to below poverty line (BPL) category should be given cash benefits and not indirect subsidies.

This way the benefit would reach beneficiaries directly , he said. Several leaders said farmers did not receive enough compensation when their agricultural land was acquired. When their land is acquired, they lose their means of livelihood. There should be a proper compensation for their land, a senior leader said.

Though there was no specific mention of any scam like Adarsh or 2G spectrum at the meeting, senior leader RK Dhawan pointed out that the Government should introduce austerity measures at all levels. Another leader suggested that Government could even lead by example by cutting down on allocation for administrative expenses.

This could send a signal to the masses about the Governments conduct. Leaders expressed concerns over price rise and urged the Centre to present a people-friendly Budget. Congress leaders mentioned specific suggestions including lowering of education loan interest and home loan rates to ease the burden on the common man.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: Today education loan is more expensive than a car loan. What is the message we are trying to send? Education loan rates need to be brought down. There were other suggestions for increasing allocation for minority schemes and welfare of tribals.

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