India Insight

Budget 2014: Reactions from the common man

Security personnel stand guard near sacks containing the papers of the federal budget for the 2014/15 fiscal year, at the parliament in New Delhi July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan AbidiPrime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government on Thursday unveiled a first budget of structural reforms that seek to revive growth, while spurning the temptation to resort to higher borrowing.

(Click here for Budget 2014 highlights)

India Insight spoke to people in New Delhi’s central business district for their thoughts on the budget:

ASHISH SHARMA, 36, regional manager, Bharti AXA

“Decision to increase FDI in insurance is welcome. This means that more expertise will come into the sector, which is good for general insurance.”

SWATI, 26, media professional

“The decision to introduce a curriculum on gender is a much needed move because children need to be educated about gender from a very early age.”

VIJAY KUMAR, manager, consulting firm

“The tax exemption limit (for individuals below 60 years) is not enough. It should be increased to at least 300,000 rupees.”

Bollywood seeks tax breaks from Budget 2014

By Shashank Chouhan and Sankalp Phartiyal

Bollywood is hoping that the newly elected government’s first budget will contain tax breaks that will let it write a happy ending, at least for this year and next.

The Indian movie business, led by the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, hopes Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget will reduce the tax burden on movie studios as well as theatre owners and operators, and will provide incentives that would let them open more theatres around the country to boost ticket sales.

While the entertainment tax on movie tickets varies from one state to another, filmmakers pay numerous other fees, such as a 12.36 percent service tax to the central government that is charged on payments to actors and film crews, as well as customs on any imports such as movie equipment. This, industry insiders say, makes it tough to make more money. In Maharashtra, Bollywood’s home state, the taxes on a movie can comprise up to 61 percent of a film’s budget.

Budget 2014: Give Indians tax breaks, more ways to invest – experts

Arun Jaitley’s first budget as India’s finance minister should allow individual taxpayers to invest more money in vehicles such as government savings bonds, mutual funds and employee savings plans, and provide them with tax credits that would bolster their savings and boost economic growth, tax experts say.

Income tax rules allow for an annual exemption of 100,000 rupees ($1,700) in investments and expenditures such as life insurance and home loan repayments, a rule that has remained unchanged for about a decade. Such investments, along with public provident funds, employee provident funds, five-year term deposits in banks and equity-linked mutual fund savings plans are good for individuals and also help keep the economy on a strong footing, said Suresh Surana, founder, RSM Astute Consulting.

“Savings need to be channelized into economically productive avenues which are what Section 80C essentially provides for, investment either in government securities or bank deposits or life insurance,” said Surana.

VIDEO: India’s auto sector and budget expectations

India’s automobile sector may have been dented by negative sales for two straight years, but the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is hoping to see an uptick in sales this fiscal year.

Spiralling inflation and expensive bank loans, which most Indians depend on to buy vehicles, weighed on customer sentiment as the country’s economic growth languished at 4.7 percent in the December-quarter — about half the rate of India’s boom years.

However, a stable and business-friendly BJP government is expected to revive economic growth and kick-start the investment cycle, factors that may help the market for vehicles grow.

When the Right To Information becomes a fight for information in India

The Congress party-led government that drafted the Right To Information (RTI) Act in 2005 touted the law as one of its success stories for the average Indian in the last election. Whether it played any role in the election’s outcome is difficult to say, but activists who specialize in RTI requests throughout India say that government workers have found many ways to frustrate their attempts to get responses to their questions.

Filing an RTI is easier than it used to be, but extracting information is getting harder each year, said Neeraj Goenka, an RTI activist in Sitamarhi, a town in the state of Bihar.

“Bihar government brought a number of amendments to the RTI act to discourage people from asking questions. Bureaucracy is totally dominant here also like in any other state,” he said. “From top to bottom, everyone knows how the information can either be denied or delayed, and the application keeps moving from one authority to the other for months.”

Railway Budget 2014: Reactions from the common man

In his maiden budget, Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda said the bulk of India’s future railway projects will be financed through public-private partnerships and that his ministry would seek cabinet approval for allowing foreign direct investment in the state-owned network. (Click here for Rail Budget highlights)

India Insight spoke to people at the New Delhi railway station for their thoughts on the railway budget:

GOPINATH AGARWAL, 72, from Kanpur

“The idea of bullet trains is a nice thing. I have seen a lot of governments over the years, and I think Narendra Modi’s government will be the best, but we need to be patient with him. I think Modi will be able to introduce bullet trains during his tenure. And it is good that they want to increase infrastructure at railway stations.”

Railway Budget 2014: Highlights at a glance

In his maiden budget, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said the bulk of future railway projects will be financed through public-private partnerships and his ministry would seek cabinet approval for allowing foreign direct investment in the state-owned network, excluding passenger services.

India’s railway, the world’s fourth-largest, has suffered from years of low investment and populist policies to subsidise fares. This has turned a once-mighty system into a slow and congested network that crimps economic growth.

The Narendra Modi government pushed through a steep hike in rail passenger and freight fares last month, and expectations were high there would be bold proposals to improve the railways – a lifeline for 23 million Indians every day.

Budget 2014: Biocon chief wants more R&D incentives, fewer essential drugs

India’s $15 billion healthcare industry has taken hits on several fronts in recent years, from slow approvals for drugs in clinical trials to several run-ins with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the quality of its generic drugs.

Market growth fell to less than 10 percent last year after the increase in the number of drugs that the government said should be subject to price caps so that poor and middle-class people could afford them (Only 15 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people have health insurance).

Now, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinting at a “bitter pill” to rescue India’s economy, the pharma industry wouldn’t want to be at the receiving end of tough decisions; it would be difficult for a business that’s used to making medicine instead of taking it.

Movie Review: ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil’ is an insipid disaster

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Director Arif Ali’sLekar Hum Deewana Dil” will try your patience from the word go, so here’s a game you can play to make the experience more tolerable. It’s called ‘Spot the Movie’ and its rules are simple: name the films that this particular snorefest reminds you of. I promise you, there’ll be many.

In “Lekar Hum Deewana Dil”, Karishma Shetty (Deeksha Seth) and Dinesh ‘Dino’ Nigam (Armaan Jain) are college classmates in Mumbai who get along like a house on fire. Everyone else is convinced they are in love but the lead pair says they are just good friends. Such good friends that Karishma begs Dino to marry her to avoid the arranged marriage her rich, tyrannical father has planned for her. They elope when neither family consents to the match.

With little money and an unfinished education, it doesn’t make sense. But what is an eloping Bollywood couple if not ridiculously optimistic? The two travel deep into the country’s heartland. One of their stops is Dantewada in the state of Chhattisgarh, where they spend time with and even shake a leg for – hold your breath – a bunch of friendly Maoist rebels. Egos clash, quarrels ensue and things fall apart in general before there is enlightenment and reconciliation.

Budget 2014: Wishlist from healthcare sector

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has its work cut out if it wants to transform the country’s health system and provide a universal health insurance programme.

India has just 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people, and 80 percent of this workforce is in urban areas serving 30 percent of the population, according to industry lobby group NATHEALTH.

Less than 25 percent of the population has access to any form of health insurance. And India’s public and private expenditure on health is around 4 percent of its GDP, the lowest among BRICS countries.

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