Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Budget Session of Parliament commences today


In some ways, it the last vestiges of British rule – the Union Budget..  Until the year 2000, the Union Budget was announced at 5 pm on the last working day of the month of February. This practice was inherited from the Colonial Era, when the British Parliament would pass the budget in the noon followed by India in the evening of the day.  It was Mr.Yashwant Sinha, the then Finance Minister of India in the NDA government (led by BJP) of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who changed the ritual by announcing the 2001 Union Budget at 11 am.

Being the annual financial statement for the forthcoming year Apr 2012 – Mar 2013, the Budget (Union & Railway) should have been announced, discussed by now.  But the dates had to be deferred due to elections in 5 States as code of conduct of the elections commission of India does not allow making policy statements.  Now, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will table the budget in Parliament on March 16.  Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal announced that the Budget session of Parliament will commence from March 12, and the Railway Budget will be presented on March 14.

There was a time when people would queue up in petrol bunks on the eve of budget, expecting a rise in petrol prices – middle class perception of saving – that % rise in the 5 litres that they used to consume in their scooter…. Now that has changed – not their perception but the way petrol prices rise – they rise at the drop of hat. 

The Union Budget of India, is the annual Financial Statement stated in Article 112 of the Constitution of India.  The budget has to be passed by the House before it can come into effect on April 1, the start of India'sfinancial year. One hour of every sitting is called the Question Hour, during which questions posed by members may be assigned to specific government ministries, to be answered at a fixed date in the future.    The Lok Sabha shares legislative power with the Rajya Sabha, except in the area of money bills, in which case the Lok Sabha has the ultimate authority. Three sessions of Lok Sabha take place in a year: - Budget session: February to May; Monsoon session: July to September and Winter session: November to December.

The crucial  Budget session which have the Nation’s budget being presented and President Pratibha Patil addressing a joint session commences today.  The focus of the session will be on the economy with the finance minister due to present the budget. Analysts say political issues are also likely to impact the proceedings over the coming days.  The ruling  Congress party-led government has been weakened due to its poor showing in recent elections in five states.  In her address to the parliament, Mrs Patil said India's economy was faring much better than the rest of the world.  But she added that there had been a decline in economic performance and there were challenges before the government.

Perhaps most of us have forgotten Anna Hazare by now – the  last session of parliament was adjourned in December amid chaos over the issue of the controversial anti-corruption Lokpal bill.  The bill, which empowers an independent ombudsman to prosecute politicians and civil servants, was passed in the lower house, but failed to get through in the upper house of parliament, which adjourned without a vote.  The bill may be taken up again in the budget session.

Every year there are raised hopes that Govt’s  top  priorities would be fiscal consolidation and growth.  But it makes good to expect budget with low expectations.  So, higher taxes could almost be certain and the excise duty might go up for some products – there could more services falling in the service tax net.

The salaried class will as usual hear the budget speech with great expectations and the Income Tax limit would stand hiked by a couple of ten thousand rupees, which eventually would provide a relief of 2 or 3 thousand of rupees !!

Not many would have read the news of Delhi Court allowing participation of DMK MP Kanimozhi, facing trial for her alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation case; Special CBI Judge OP Saini allowed Kanimozhi's plea to attend the session after the CBI did not oppose it.   It is submitted by Kanimozhi that she is a member of the Rajya Sabha and Budget Session of Parliament is commencing from today and she may be allowed to attend the same to which senior public prosecutor (of the CBI) has no objection.  "She is permitted to attend the session subject to the condition that her identity shall not be disputed and her counsel shall remain present in the court for participating in the court proceedings and shall actually participate in the court proceedings," the special judge said.

That is Union Budget and Middle class who reads so much into the statement

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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