The Budget this year will have some very far reaching implications for women from all segments of the society and from all walks of life.
Both as earning professionals and housewives, women are directly affected by the provisions of the Budget and therefore coming out more vociferously than ever about their expectations.
The primary concerns revolve around special tax provisions and apprehensions regarding the unabated rise in inflation.
The modern Indian woman who works in the office and also runs a household has serious apprehensions about the state of prices in the nation post Budget, which would define her buying power and therefore the lifestyle of the entire family.
The number of women working in professional spheres has multiplied manifold over the last decade and today they constitute a huge workforce in every conceivable field.
In order to promote their welfare, the government had made certain special tax exemptions for women.
The current limit of exemption on personal income for women is Rs 1,90,000 for women as against Rs 1,80,000 for men. There have been various rumors about equalizing the initial exemption limit.
Except women working as top corporate executives, this apparently small extra exemption implied substantial direct savings for the common working woman. Though the actual exemption limit may itself go by certain amount, the extra bit of savings that women had the advantage of is likely to cause extensive heartburns.
Investing woman's anxieties
Those women who have been putting aside money through various investment instruments expect the finance minister to make special arrangements for them wherein the total income deductible from the taxable income under Section 80C is increased.
There is a strong likelihood of increase in the limit for investment under 80C from the current amount of Rs 1,00,000 to about Rs 2,00,000 or more as this is more in tune with the proposed figure of Rs 3,00,000 under the Direct Tax Code.
Introducing a special and higher limit for working women will be a major boost in their path to financial independence.
Those women who have availed housing loans are also looking forward to some special concessions in terms of higher exemptions in interests as well as principal repayment amounts from the taxable income.
Girl student's expectations
Though promoting education among girls has been an oft declared aim of successive governments at the centre as well as the states, little has been done in terms of providing specific provisions for easier educational loans for higher studies to girl students.
Many such students strongly feel that the time has come for the finance minister to take concrete steps in this regard and extend the moratorium on educational loans for girls as well as offer a softer interest rate so as to enable the girls to make up for their traditional disadvantage in obtaining higher and specialised professional education which help them to stand on their feet.
The spiraling cost of household goods, consumer durables and food items remains the foremost concern of all housewives.
There has been no respite from inflation over the last two years, especially in the prices of food grains and pulses which has a direct bearing on the diet of the family.
Every housewife is seriously concerned about providing the most nutritious possible diet to the family which is increasingly becoming unaffordable.
The housewife wants to hear the definite measures that the finance minister plans to implement by means of Budgetary allocations to arrest inflation. Any further rise in petrol prices will have a snowballing effect on rest of products.
Even subsidy to domestic LPG needs to be increased so as to keep it within reach of common households across the country.
The household budgets have gone astray due to such unprecedented inflation for a prolonged period which is the major concern of every housewife that the finance minister needs to address comprehensively.
Women play a vital role in the smooth running of any family's Budget as they affect most of the financial decisions.
Women today have made their presence felt in every sphere of activity. Thus they are increasing becoming vocal about their expectations in terms of special concessions to help them gain a level playing field in the man's world.
The Indian woman is today far more assertive of her rights and the finance minister would do well to carefully consider special demands and expectations of women before finalising the Union Budget for 2012-2013.