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Women give the thumbs-up

Rasheeda Bhagat

CHENNAI, Feb. 28

LONG before he had even started the Budget exercise, the Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, a man of few words, had said the one thing he'd like his Budget to do was put more money in the housewife's purse.

To find out if Budget 2003 had done that, Business Line spoke to a few women and all of them gave it a thumbs-up.

Ms. Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, Software Consultant

Ms Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, wife of the Union Minister for Urban Development, Mr K. Ananth Kumar, described it as "a good Budget full of positive things."

A software engineer, who works as a consultant for an IT company in Bangalore, she was euphoric about the initiatives for education and health that the Budget has to offer. "Middle-class people like us, especially women, will be very happy that the Finance Minister has granted a rebate on children's educational expenses. As a mother of two girls, I know that today a parent spends a minimum of Rs 1,000 a month on a child's education in a city. So this has come as a big relief."

Her two daughters study in Class VII and Class I in a Bangalore school. But Ms Tejaswini's interest in education goes beyond that of her own children. Five years ago she started a trust named after her mother-in-law — the Adanya Chetna Trust — that has adopted 15 Kannada-medium Government schools in Bangalore.

Needless to say training on computers is part of the educational services this trust offers to the 3,500-odd children. "But I'm most thrilled about the health insurance Mr Singh announced for poor people, in which the premium is just Re 1 per day. When we conduct screening programmes for the schoolchildren, many of them need medical attention and simple operations. We found 25 of them had vision in only one eye. The operation costs Rs 10,000 and we could help only two children. But now with such a scheme, many poor people will benefit," she said.

Effusive about the Budget, she said in the last several decades she had not come across such a "development-oriented Budget as this. Of course, we can't expect answers to all our problems at one go, but a beginning has been made. I would say with this Budget we have moved from the negative to the neutral."

Ms Mythily Ramesh, Vice-President, 01 Market

Ms Mythily Ramesh, Vice-President and Business Head, 01 Market, a division of Wipro Infotech, found Mr Singh's Budget "pro-people. Going by the initial announcements, the Finance Minister has indeed attempted to put more money in a housewife's purse," she said.

As a professional and a housewife, she finds this Budget providing "relief in many ways. First of all, there is the tax relief on personal earnings and then the rebate on children's education, which are welcome. The sops provided to housing continue this year too and VRS is not taxable. There are many other concessions provided for various industries that touch an average middle-class consumer. Like the abolition of expenditure tax on tourism, reduction of duty on automobiles and custom duty on gold, to name a few."

As a mother of two boys, aged 6 and 11, she welcomes the rebate on education. But as an investor she feels the Budget does not "encourage saving and investment from individuals. The interest rate cut on PPF is not a welcome move. Ultimately, the Budget proposals ensure that the Indian housewife loosens her purse strings to spend more than to save. I would say there is no encouragement for saving."

Ms Parul S. Bhatt, Director, Prism Public Relations

Chennai-based Ms Parul S. Bhatt, Director of Prism Public Relations, is thrilled about the rebate on children's educational expenditure.

"Educating children is so expensive today. We spend Rs 70,000 a year as fees for our elder daughter, an engineering student, and Rs 20,000 for the younger one who is in school. The middle-class will certainly find this proposal a huge relief."

But on the personal taxation front, she will not get much relief. Dividend becoming tax free in the investor's hand and abolition of capital gains tax for equity investors does not interest her.

"I used to invest in equity two years ago. But my father, who has badly burnt his fingers in the stock market, advised me to stay away. I did make some money on Infosys, but lost in shares such as MTNL and Zee. When their prices crashed, I decided to get out and opted for schemes like the NSC, PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra. The reduction of interest rates in small-savings schemes will hurt people like me," adds Ms Parul.

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