What Is There For Her? Why The Interim Budget 2019 Disappoints

Posted: February 2, 2019

A lack of clear benefits to women in the interim budget 2019 presented by Piyush Goyal, the acting Finance Minister, disappoints, but we’re hopeful for the final budget in July 2019.

We know that this is just the interim budget 2019, but the Modi government forgets that women form half its electorate. The budget presented by Piyush Goyal – (the acting Finance Minister in the absence of Sri Arun Jaitley) doesn’t give many women specific benefits, unless we count the ones that we can ‘extract’ from the benefits given to all. Hopefully, women will get a better deal when a newly elected government announces its annual budget in July.

So what can we derive from the interim budget 2019? There has been some major relief for farmers, and low and middle income groups.

Income tax rebate

Acquiescing to popular public demand, the interim budget 2019 gives a full income tax rebate for all salaried employees earning below 5 lakh per annum. They can also avail the benefit of provident deposits, premium paid for LIC policies and medical insurance etc. to claim benefit which will increase the total tax exemption limit to approximately 6.5 lakh.

How it benefits women: Many more salaried working women come under the low and middle income group, than men in the same socio-economic group. This raise will mean more will get this benefit.

Standard deduction limit raised

TDS threshold is raised from Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000 on interest from bank/postoffice deposits.

How it benefits women: This move, the minister said, will help the senior citizens and non-working women who had to apply for tax refunds till now.

Income support to marginal farmers

Providing relief to marginal farmers, governments has also announced income support of 6000 rupees, under Kisan Samman Yojana, to farmers owning less than two hectares of land. It will be transferred in three instalments directly in their accounts. This is not a huge amount but even a financial small support is welcome for farmers who have to fight for even their daily sustenance.

How it benefits women: It will depend on the individual farmer – though many of these could be women left behind after men lost in the rampant farmer suicides.

Mega Pension Scheme

Government has launched Pradhan Mantri Shramyogi Maan Dhan Yojana – for workers earning upto 15000 rupees per month in the unorganized sector. They will, on attaining the age of 60 years, be entitled to a monthly pension of 3000 rupees on monthly contributions varying from 55 to 100 rupees per month. The government will make an equal contribution towards this pension scheme. This scheme will help ensure a more respectable life for the workers in their old age when they are unable to work for their survival.

How it benefits women: A chunk of workers in the unorganised sector are domestic workers, who are usually women. This should hopefully benefit them.

Other Announcements

Budget outlay for MNREGA which provides minimum 100 days of employment guarantee to the rural poor, has been increased to Rs 60,000 crores. Allocation for Gram Sadak Yojana – meant for construction of pucca roads in villages – is also increased to 19,000 crores. Villages being connected with pucca roads would mean better connectivity and better business, employment and education opportunities and also availability of medical facilities for the rural people.

Given the stress on cows in recent times and it’s importance in vote bank politics it is not surprising that the outlay for Rashtriya Gokul Mission has been increased to 750 crores and a Rashtriya Kamdhenu Ayog will also be set up for sustainable genetic up-gradation of cow resources. Ostensibly it is meant to benefit the small scale dairy farmers too.

To provide impetus to the realty sector and relief to customers, the minister proposed to exempt the levy of income tax on notional rent on a second self-occupied house. He also proposed to extend the period of exemption from levy of tax on notional rent, on unsold inventories, from one year to two years, from the end of the year in which the project is completed.

Also, the benefit of rollover of capital gains under section 54 of the Income Tax Act will be increased from investment in one residential house to two residential houses for a taxpayer having capital gains up to 2 crore.s. 2 crore. Both of these announcements are going to boost the housing industry which has been facing one of its worst downslide due to demonetization and implementation of GST.

How it benefits women: This is unclear, and remains to be seen.

No new announcements specifically for women

It’s quite disappointing that the government has not made any new provisions aimed specifically at benefiting women though the tax exemptions, pension scheme for workers in the unorganized sector and the proposals for housing loans will benefit them too.

As a small positive gesture the minister announced that around 3% of the 25% sourcing for government undertakings will be from women owned MSMEs.

Apart from this the minister just repeated the provisions for women made in the last few budgets like free LPG connections to women under the Ujjwala Yojana, extension of maternity leave to 26 weeks, monetary support of 5000 rupees to pregnant women under Matru Vandana Yojana. He also said that around 70% of the total Mudra Yojana loans are availed by women which is a heartening revelation.

Maybe we can look forward to the final budget 2019 in July?

Exemption from tax on daycare allowance for women

Many corporates offset their employees’ expenditure on creche and daycare but it is taxable. In the final budget women employees would expect the Finance Minister to exempt this allowance from income tax. Daycare facilities are not a luxury but a necessity and if it is exempted from income tax it will provide an impetus to working women.

Shared parental leave benefits

Also, the government could initiate Shared Parental Leave where both parents are working instead of separate maternity and paternity leaves. This is quite the norm in many countries. It helps the father bond with the child better and the mother to regain health and return to work earlier. It would also establish greater gender parity and eradicate the negative mindset of employers towards hiring women.

What more women-friendly initiatives do you look forward to in the final budget which will be presented by the new government? Any suggestions?

Image source: YouTube and Flickr

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