• Hey Bud, Get Your Act Together, Will Ya?
    Mar 28, 2005

    For years, politicians have been talking about gender-sensitive fiscal policies but not done anything (Walk on the Fringe Side, Mar 14). Chidambaram has at last tried to translate the talk into action by initiating certain things which should be seen as an instrument of social re-engineering to redress the imbalance in wealth, power and influence between men and women. These fiscal measures will encourage business property owners to show a higher share of income or assets with women to avail of the lower tax rate. Similarly, differential stamp duties across genders will encourage families to register property with women which will ultimately become legally theirs, in the event of a death or separation.
    G.S. Rao, Kolhapur

    The Congress ran its election campaign on the tagline ‘Aam aadmi ke liye’ and wrested power in spite of a fractured mandate. Now, firmly in power, the ‘aam aadmi’ has been kicked out of the window and replaced by ‘har aurat’. Women have to pay lower taxes, lower premia on insurance, lower rates on loans and also enjoy higher tax exemption limits. What better way to improve women’s lives than make men pay for it! Obviously neither the government nor the media found any hint of discrimination in that, even though the Constitution says that one will not be discriminated on the basis of gender.
    Suvrajit Saha, Calcutta

    Poverty, illiteracy, health, unemployment, starvation...these are problems that have been with us through our 57 years of independence. Yet the Union budget does not have a single plan to bring about positive changes in the lives of crores of rural Indians. It has become a routine exercise to directly benefit the rich, viz, the stockbrokers, the fiis. Will we ever have a budget to zero in on implementation of policies at the grassroots level with minimum corruption and with a special thrust on agriculture and eradicating poverty and illiteracy?
    Akhil Kumar, Delhi

    While the budget has won many kudos, the finance minister has given senior citizens a raw deal. Raising the tax exemption limit for senior citizens to Rs 1.5 lakh looks attractive on the surface but, seen against the earlier concessions, compares unfavourably. The earlier provision of Rs 20,000 deduction from the income tax of senior citizens, when translated into taxable income—in the 20 per cent slab—works out to Rs 1 lakh. Add to this the exemption limit of Rs 50,000 plus standard deduction of Rs 30,000. It works out to Rs 1.8 lakh, Rs 30,000 more than the Rs 1.5 lakh limit in Budget ’05. The withdrawal of other deductions like Rs 12,000 against interest income from small savings like bank FDs makes matters worse. The least Chidambaram can do is to reinstate the earlier tax concessions so that senior citizens are not unduly taxed.
    Maj Gen K.C. Mehra (Retd), New Delhi

    A senior citizen pensioner, currently not liable to pay any income tax on his annual income of Rs 1,85,000, will now have to shell out Rs 7,140 as tax on the same income. Would the hon’ble finance minister care to mend this injustice?
    Gurudas, Dehradun

    The budget, cooked up with Chettinad masala, is tangy to some and sour to many. In order to get more funds to manage the economy, Chidambaram has succeeded in building deception into the process. The tools he uses to manage the economy are highly discriminatory. The tax codes have become more complex and only the experts can understand who gets what at the expense of the man on the street.
    A.S. Raj, on e-mail

    Over 80 per cent of tobacco is consumed as bidis, which no finance minister can touch although bidimakers are amongst the country’s richest people: after all, bidis are a holy cottage industry. But if the finance minister were interested in improving people’s health, he should levy a heavy specific tax on raw tobacco.
    J. Akshobya, Bangalore

    The fringe benefit is a legitimate business expense as it is intended to keep the morale of the employees high.
    Siddhartha Raj Guha, Jabalpur

    As per some press reports, cbi raids on government officials in a single day yielded Rs 1,935 crore worth of assets and moneys disproportionate to these officials’ incomes. My humble suggestion to the FM therefore is to put income tax collection on hold and concentrate its entire machinery on raids on all government employees and politicians. I am sure it will give the government more revenue than it can recover through income tax.
    M. Kumar, New Delhi

    Chidambaram’s budget is like sugar candy, nectar for innocuous infants, poison for dreaded diabetics.
    Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi

  • Congress of Goons
    Mar 28, 2005

    There was no ‘inner voice’ nor any ‘renunciatory’ impulse (Inner Noise, Mar 14) for Sonia Gandhi to begin with. It was the biggest fraud Sonia tried to perpetrate on us Indians. Luckily most of us did not buy it. However, the truth is being told little by little and soon it will be exposed fully. The Congress is the biggest danger to the country. If we fall prey to it, we will not remain one country for long, with its antagonism toward Hindus.
    R. Marur, Abu Dhabi, UAE

    It’s a shame Outlook is consistently trying to cover up the faultlines of the Congress. It’s now certain that your magazine is part of the nexus of corruption woven by the Congress. Time to give up on this myopic Outlook.
    Anil Chakradar, Hyderabad

    Trust the Congress to come up with such innovative ideas to (mis)use the office of the governor (What’s Up, Guv?, Mar 14). While newcomers like the bjp were no pushovers, the Congress is a past master at this game. Eight years out of power, and they haven’t forgotten even one old trick. Signora, beware! You’re treading the same path ma-in-law did, with unhappy consequences.
    Neelabh Mishra, Bettiah

    One’s not disappointed to hear that Bihar is under President’s rule. Like it’s said about Kerala, its golden days were when it was under President’s rule, without any interference from political parties. Hope the state will finally be relieved of its woes.
    A.K. Tharien, Oddanchatram

    Why doesn’t the upa outsource its job to the nda?
    Rajesh B. Shah, Chennai

    Prem Shankar Jha was not alone in getting That Awful Feeling Again (Mar 14). As governors-cum-Congressmen got down to the unholy business of fixing governments in Goa, Jharkhand and Bihar, one wondered whether the Grand Old Party of India was back to its old ways. The halo around Sonia Gandhi’s head appears hollow now, thanks to ill advice from her coterie. Time she realised she cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
    R. Venkatesan Iyengar, Hyderabad

    When Mrs Gandhi dismissed Hegde and ntr in the ’80s, there was a hue and cry. Were this to happen again, the press, including Outlook, is so much in the pockets of the Congress that it would look the other way. This is nothing less than an attack on democracy and the press loses its credibility by not acknowledging it. Is this Algeria, where the fundamentalists have to be kept out at all cost?
    Nayanika Barat, Toowoomba, Australia

    Contrary to what Mr Jha thinks, after the next general elections, the bjp won’t do what the Congress did as it knows that revenge is like biting a dog because it bit you.
    Anurag N. Paranjape, Bangalore

    For Sonia, Jharkhand was "So nia, yet so far."
    H. Parshuram, Mumbai

  • That’s Our Man
    Mar 28, 2005

    It was a matter of great pleasure to read the article The Quiet Man (Mar 7) on Ahmed Patel, popularly known in the region as Babubhai. I have nothing to do with politics, I am just a resident of his constituency who has been watching him very closely for the last two decades. He is really an unsung hero, not only in his constituency but in the party as a whole. Everybody knows his role in the industrial development of the region. A young, honest and dedicated politicians, I have hardly ever seen him lose his cool. His presence at the Centre is making us feel his absence at the local level. We wish him all the best.
    M.T. Lakhani, Bharuch

  • Harvard Ho!
    Mar 28, 2005

    Just a short note to correct the "$50 billion" endowment figure mentioned in your article An Indian Oxford (Mar 14). Harvard’s endowments have steadily increased by about 10-12 per cent every year in recent years and now stand at $22 billion. Harvard’s fund managers have been very skilled in the art of hedging and playing the derivatives market. The leading fund managers of the Harvard endowment funds management group have received annual compensation in tens of millions of dollars. This has created a controversy amongst Harvard alumni; three members of the fund management team left Harvard recently.
    Swaminathan Iyer, Massachusetts, US

    How can we equate an iisc or even an iit to mit, Harvard or Stanford? Look at the contribution mit and Stanford make to the American society, in every walk of life. Every single innovation that has benefited American society has emerged from these institutions. What has been the contribution of iisc or iit to the development of India? Zilch! Other than producing arrogant staff and alumni who use these brand names to get to the US, what have they done? A Rs 100 crore package won’t make much difference. I think they specialise in doing blue sky research.
    Vijay Shankar, Bangalore

  • Whose Mask Is It Anyway?
    Mar 28, 2005

    Yes, Mr Mehta, The Mask Slips. But as usual you are barking up the wrong tree. The mask slips off Sonia, not Vajpayee, as you suggest in your Delhi Diary (Mar 7). After her so-called sacrifice, the media, especially Outlook, went into overdrive portraying her as some kind of holy soul. They tried their level best to make us forget her 272 MPs, the way she grabbed the top post in the Congress, her handling of Sitaram Kesri, Pawar, Narasimha Rao, etc. Suddenly crooks like Laloo and Soren gained a new respectability because of their association with her. Alas, Mr Mehta, the chickens have come home to roost. Your saint has turned out to be a sinner. And as her media managers keep blaming everybody else but her for the current fiasco, her culpability and lack of accountability only become more obvious. I have only one regret. Wish she had let Manmohan Singh do his job because I truly believe he could have made a difference.
    Navdeep Hans, Delhi

  • Feeling The Pen Prick
    Mar 28, 2005

    Anita Roy’s review of Shashi Tharoor’s book (Mar 14) reeks of a personal bias. In a total loss of objectivity, she has exceeded professional restraint. I’m not sure if Shashi Tharoor deserves it. He does not seem such a bad read to me.
    A.S. Kumar, Dakar, Senegal

  • All In A De’s Work
    Mar 28, 2005

    Khushwant Singh’s review of Shobhaa De’s book Spouse (Feb 28) was simply delightful. He has exposed Shobhaa De in full view of the Outlook readers. I am convinced he had a few pegs of Scotch before he wrote the review.
    D.K. Sharma, Itarsi, MP



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