Budget expectations: Women seek cheaper essential goods, healthcare
Tax relief on essential commodities and services, and maternal and medical benefits are some of the expectations of women from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is set to unveil the budget for fiscal 2017-18 on February 1.
Women, both those working at home and outside, say it is becoming increasingly difficult for middle class families to manage house finances with limited resources and growing inflation, even if prices of daily essentials have come down in recent weeks after months of spike.
Many women also expect the Finance Minister to announce some women-oriented schemes like relaxation in tax slabs and higher returns on fixed deposits specifically for women.
Krishna Gandhi, a homemaker from Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, said she hoped that the prices of pulses and vegetables would be reduced.
"After demonetisation, it has become very difficult to survive. The ever-increasing rate of electricity and water bills make it a task to maintain my monthly budget," Gandhi told IANS.
Prem Jhakhar, another Delhi resident, said with inflation skyrocketing, the government needed to do something about the prices of essential goods.
"Apart from that, there is need to regulate the rising costs of education as well. The government should make education more affordable in private schools while simultaneously working on improving the quality of education in government schools in the long-term," she said.
Swati Mantri, a research scholar from Noida, said more than the larger budget announcements, she was more concerned that her family needs would be fulfilled "within her budget".
"Vegetables, grocery, LPG should not get expensive. These mostly affect people with limited incomes. There should be relief for people on scholarships and smaller salaries," she said.
Gurugram resident Yashi hoped that the Finance Minister would announce higher interest rates on fixed deposits and incentives for gold investments for women.
"Our country`s women are still not equipped with investment knowledge. Hence, they either believe in fixed deposits or in gold assets," Yashi said.
Smita Kothari, a homemaker from Kolkata, said taxes on branded goods and meals in restaurants should be lowered.
"We like to travel once in a while as a family, but these trips are becoming more and more expensive. The government should also work on lowering travel costs as it will be great for middle class families and will also boost tourism," she said.
Aparna Singh, a Human Resource Manager from Delhi, said the government should formulate the budget keeping the middle class in mind.
"Most services and products that the middle class use are heavily taxed. The economically weaker sections don`t use them and upper class sections are not bothered by it. It is the middle class that is worst hit," the HR Manager said, hoping that this year`s budget will "correct this imbalance".
Aparna Isa Dass, who recently started her own cake baking venture Bakers High, wanted the government to work towards creating a stronger women workforce by working on employment policies that focus entirely on women.
"For women entrepreneurs, tax slabs should be further relaxed in order to encourage more businesses run entirely by women," she said.
Many women were of the opinion that health expenses were a because of minimal government support. They expected the government to announce maternal benefits with an aim to ensure that women are not at a financial disadvantage.