1. From the price of chini, tel, atta to income tax slabs: How my relationship with the Budget has changed

From the price of chini, tel, atta to income tax slabs: How my relationship with the Budget has changed

3 min read | Updated on January 20, 2024, 17:15 IST

SUMMARY

As a school-going child, I never quite understood the exact purpose of the Budget. I used to think it was just an announcement on price hikes of various day-to-day items.. I bought my essentials from a village shop and always wondered why the government felt the need to increase the price every year. I got my answers when I passed high school.

Budget is about much more than prices of daily essentials

I grew up in a small village in Hayaghat, Bihar, which romantics might label a Shakespearean hamlet. As a school-going child, my first encounter with the Budget was through talks on the radio and the post-Budget articles in Hindi newspapers, which would solely focus on how basic items would get more expensive. Beyond things getting more dearer, I never quite understood the exact purpose of the whole exercise. I used to think it was just an announcement on price hikes of various day-to-day items.

Inevitably, the day after whenever I went to school or nearby markets, there would be some Hindi papers which would have clear graphs showing the things that got more expensive. I never recall the price of any item going down. Since the people in my village knew the exact date of the budget, and anticipating a price hike, they would go and store some essentials like sabun, tel, chini, atta, chawal and dal.

I would always wonder how this price hike worked. I bought my essentials from a village shop and always wondered why the government felt the need to increase the price every year. I got my answers when I passed high school.

In college, the Budget documents became a source of knowledge and an opportunity to show off I am the alpha in the circle. However, my concern around it shifted from expenses to understanding how the process worked. Even then, I often got worried over the complex terms and all the mathematical summaries it used to present.

As a below-average student who passed the subject by the-skin-of-my-teeth, I would always be bewildered by what looked like indecipherable calculations in the Budget papers.

Somehow, I figured that all newspapers presented a graph taking ₹1 as a base of calculation: from where it comes and where it goes. This simplified my understanding of the complex exercise to a great extent. At long last, I could understand why I didn’t pay any fees at the government schools and why my college fees and hostel charges at a leading central university were so less, and how, coming from a zero-monthly family income group, I could complete my Master’s degree almost free of cost.

As they say, all good things must end. After my university days, I landed in Delhi and then got a job only to remain outside the tax bracket for three years. In my mind, I always wanted to be an income-tax payer—a contributing member of society, if you will.

Soon, it happened and started to grow into a concern as my career progressed, and I wondered if I was contributing too much to the nation’s betterment.

Now, I watch all budget speeches live on TV, though not just out of curiosity or for seeking knowledge. Now, as an editor, I make my living decoding Budgets and all big events. My worries about the price of sabun, tel, chini, aata, chawal and dal have now been replaced by tax slabs, rates, rebates, direct and indirect taxes. And today, I happily pay my taxes with a smile on my lips, remembering all the nameless people who paid their taxes and financed my education so I, too, could grow up and pay taxes. A happy circle and quirk of life, if there ever was one, and one that reiterates why we all ought to pay our taxes.