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Bangalore's poor give thumbs up to budget - Sathish - 07-06-2009

Bangalore, July 6 (IANS) Bangalore's urban poor, who reside mostly in slums, have hailed Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's budget as pro-poor.

"Firstly, I appreciate Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for presenting a pro-poor budget with several sops for urban poor," Isaac Arul Selva (38), a slum dweller, told IANS.

"The National Food Security scheme for providing food at cheaper rates to the poor is a commendable step on the part of the government," added Selva, the founder and editor of Slum Jagatthu (Slum World), India's first magazine that focuses only on the issues related to the urban poor.

The budget has announced a provision of 25 kg of either wheat or rice per month at Rs.3 per kg to families living below the poverty line (BPL).

Echoing Selva, septuagenarian Anand Babu of Ambedkar Nagar slum said that if implemented, the food security scheme would help the poor fight hunger and deprivation.

"Poor people are always deprived of basic food. Most of the children and women from underprivileged sections of society are mal-nourished. The food security scheme will bring some relief to the poor people, but it would have been better if 25 kg had been increased to at least 40 kg, as poor families are usually big," added Babu.

Across the slums of Ambedkar Nagar and Sanjay Gandhi Nagar, several of its residents distributed sweets as Pranab Mukherjee ended his budget announcements.

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FKCCI members watch Union Budget News at FKCCI in Bangalore on Monday
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Policemen read evening newspaper for Union budget news near Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on Monday

Besides the food security measures, the finance minister also offered sops for the unorganized sector and housing for the poor.

"Most of the poor people are working in unorganized sectors, including daily wage earners, hawkers and vendors. Now, the government will take care of the workers in the unorganized sectors," said Mani K, a hawker and member of "Slum Janandolan Karnataka" (SJK), a group fighting for the rights of the slum dwellers.

The hike in budgetary allocation to Rs.3,973 crore for the provision of housing and basic amenities for urban poor was welcomed.

"Housing is a major problem for the urban poor as most of them stay in makeshift houses without any sanitation facilities. The increase in allocation for urban housing is a positive step," said Selva.

"In a nut-shell, we can say that some positive steps have been taken to alleviate the condition of the poor in urban areas of the country," said Mani.

India's Silicon Valley has around 800 slums.

According to figures available with the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike or Greater Bangalore City Corporation, approximately 60,0000 people live in these slums. The city's total population is about eight million.

The slum population is projected to go up to one million by 2010, when the total population is expected to reach 10 million.

IT professionals of Bangalore have mixed feelings on budget

Bangalore, July 6 (IANS) Youngsters in India's IT hub Bangalore, who have been hugely affected by the global economic recession due to large scale job losses and lack of newer employment opportunities, have expressed mixed feelings over Monday's union budget.

If young professionals have expressed happiness on the increase in the income tax exemption limit and end of fringe benefit tax, they are dissatisfied over the budget not having given a clear cut indication to end job losses and generation of employment opportunities.

"The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's announcement to ensure 12 million new jobs each year is a positive step. But the budget has not outlined the specific measures as to which sectors will create job opportunities and how to end the ever increasing job losses, especially in Bangalore," Sudha Ganguly, an IT professional, told IANS.

Most of Bangalore's youngsters who are either employed in IT and BPO sectors or are hoping to get employment in these sectors are disappointed that no specific action plan has been charted out to bail out the industries in the wake of the global economic recession.

"Where are the job opportunities? Job losses are the order of the day. Bangalore has been hit hard by recession, as the IT and BPO sectors are the main driving force behind the city's economy," said Prema Sherpa, a BPO employee.

"We were expecting some sort of announcement in the budget to put an end to the crisis-like situation in the IT and BPO sectors," added Prema.

UNITES-Professionals (Union for Information Technology-Enabled Services-Professionals), a union of employees in the IT-Enabled Services, has predicted that 50,000 techies in India will get pink slips in 2009.

Bangalore could be the worst affected in terms of job losses as 40 percent of Indian IT and BPO professionals work in the city.

Moreover, 80 percent of IT and BPO professionals in Bangalore have seen a cut in pay packages and other perks.

"I welcome the raise in the tax exemption for the employed by Rs.10,000 each in case of both women and others and the abolition of surcharge on income tax," said IT professional Rohit Kapoor.

"But there are no sops for the IT industry, which is reeling under global slowdown, as the corporate tax is untouched. We were expecting from the finance minister some sort of goodies to revive the IT and ITES sectors. The only exception is the National ID card project worth around Rs.15,000 crore, which will be kicked off in 12-18 months time. This will bring some relief to the IT industry," Kapoor added.

Anup Dash, an IT professional, said that everyone was expecting some announcement for the corporate sector.

"But the budget was only for the 'aam aadmi' (common man). There was no mention to boost corporate India, which is fighting hard to save itself from the effect of global economic recession," added Anup.

"The good part about the budget is the scrapping of fringe benefit tax (FBT) and Commodity Transaction Tax. However, increase in income tax exemption limit for both women and others by Rs.10,000 each hardly matters," said Srinibas Prusty, another IT professional.

"It's a budget to make the vocal middle class people quiet. I appeal to the government to revise the tax structure which in turn should become a dream budget for the people," he added.

Bangaloreans cheer hike in income tax exemption

Bangalore, July 6 (IANS) Salaried residents of Bangalore have welcomed the proposed increase in income tax exemption limits for women and others by Rs.10,000 and scrapping of the fringe benefit tax (FBT).

Senior citizens in this IT hub are also happy with an increase in their tax exemption limit by Rs.15,000.

Out of six million population in the city, an estimated 565,668 are elderly people.

The exemption limit will now be Rs.240,000 for senior citizens, Rs.190,000 for women and Rs.160,000 for others.

"Increase in income tax exemption limit by Rs.10,000 for women and others is a relief for salaried people like us, who are struggling with steep price rise in essential commodities in recent times," Padma Kumar, a government employee, told IANS.

Echoing Kumar, Shekar Sastry, working with a private firm, said that increase in income tax exemption, though not by very significant amount, had taken some burden off the salaried class.

"The move is positive and we welcome the announcement by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee," said Sastry.

As the city has large number of corporate houses, the scrapping of FBT has brought a smile to both employees and employers.

"Scrapping of fringe benefit tax is a good decision by the government. It was a draconian tax system and now companies will not think twice to give perks to their employees," said Sunil Prabhu, who works as a head of human resource with a multinational company.

"Now, companies can offer perks like cars, accommodation and stocks to name a few, without thinking twice," said Mallika Tiwari, who works as a quality analyst with an IT company.

Women are also happy that the income tax exemption limit been raised to Rs.190,000 for them.

"This shows pro-women policies of UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government at the centre," smiled Pallavi Shetty, who works as an executive with a BPO.

Senior citizen Ranjan Hegde said that as elderly people "we are relieved to see increase in income tax exemption limit by Rs.15,000".

"In these times of huge price rise, such a benefit is a great relief for senior citizens. I welcome the government's move," said Hegde, who is a retired government employee.

Software sector hails tax holiday extension

Bangalore, July 6 (IANS) India's software sector Monday welcomed the extension of tax holiday on export profits to 2010-11 from this fiscal, rationalisation of multiplicity of taxes on packaged software and abolition of fringe benefit tax (FBT).

According to National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), the industry's lobby, the budget had recognised the contribution of the IT-BPO (information technology and business process outsourcing) industry to the country's economic progress and had provided measures to boost it.

"The finance minister's decision to extend fiscal benefits available to the industry under section 10A/10B for one year will help the industry mitigate the impact of the current economic environment and help India retain its competitiveness," Nasscom president Som Mittal said in a statement.

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had proposed to extend the sunset clauses for tax holidays under sections 10A and 10B of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, by one more year to 2010-11 to tide over the slowdown in exports.

Though the 10-year tax holiday expired by the end of fiscal 2008-09, previous finance minister P. Chidambaram extended the benefit to this fiscal in his budget proposals for fiscal 2008-09.

Vinay Deshpande, who heads the IT committee of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Karnataka chapter, said small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry would benefit by the tax holiday.

However, Infosys Technologies chief executive S. Gopalakrishnan said the extension of 10A/10B for the IT industry was more emotional than of actual benefit, as most software technology parks, including export-oriented firms, would have come out of the tax holidays anyway.

"At the same time, the government's focus on IT investment for enhanced governance is encouraging. The move to increase investment in higher education, especially in the IITs and NITs, will greatly benefit the industry in the medium and long term," Gopalakrishnan said.

Nasscom chairman Pramod Bhasin said the IT-BPO industry would play a key role in many of the budget initiatives aimed at promoting inclusive growth and creating substantial job opportunities.

"The industry will be keen to partner with the government in expanding e-governance initiatives, including modernisation of employment exchanges, the unique identification card project and smart cards for healthcare services so as to achieve enhanced governance," Bhasin, who is also the chief executive of the leading BPO firm Genpact, said.

"Increased capital outlays on the education and infrastructure sector will also address growth challenges that the country has faced," Bhasin noted.

Nasscom thanked the government for addressing some of the industry's concerns relating to multiplicity of taxes on packaged software, creating a dispute resolution mechanism on transfer pricing, abolishing fringe benefit tax (FBT) and issues on service tax refund.

"The combined effect of these proposals will facilitate the industry and its two-million workforce to compete effectively and sustain India's advantage," Mittal said.