Pressing for a people-friendly Budget for 2013-14, trade unions today urged Finance Minister P Chidambaram and his team to announce the constitution of the seventh pay commission along with raising the income tax threshold to Rs 5 lakh in a year from the present Rs 2 lakh.
The demand was raised by the unions at a pre-Budget consultations in the North Block, even as the government is struggling hard to rein in its fiscal deficit.
After the meeting, Harbhajan Singh Siddhu of Hind Mazdoor Sabha said already seven years of the sixth pay commission have passed and any new commission will take two-three years to study.
"The revision of wages and various service conditions of the government employees is already due. Constitution of the seventh Pay Commission be announced in the Budget," joint recommendations of trade unions, including CPI (M)-affiliated CITU, CPI-linked AITUC, INTUC of the Congress and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh to the Finance Minister said.
Also, the unions have demanded the income tax exemption ceiling for the salaried persons should be raised to Rs 5 lakh per annum and fringe benefits like housing, medical and educational facilities should be exempted from the income tax net in totality.
At a time when the government is trying hard to raise FDI cap in insurance sector to 49% from the current 26%, the unions raised objections to the move.
As the government struggled to meet its disinvestment target of Rs 30,000 crore this financial year, the memorandum said stake sale of profit making PSUs "be stopped forthwith" and budgetary support be given for revival of potentially viable sick PSUs.
On the poor sentiment in the economy, the unions called for massive investments by the government in the infrastructure sectors "in order to stimulate the economy and to make the market look up".
Chidambaram emphasised on the need to revive investment in manufacturing and services sector in order to create higher job opportunities, an official statement said.
Unions called for higher government spending to create more jobs and guarantee consistent income to the people, special allocation for creation of a welfare fund for protecting interests of unorganised workers.
Increasing the scope of MGNREGA to urban areas and raising the minimum period of employment under the UPA flagship programme from 100 days to 200 days were other demands of the unions.
Chidambaram said due to the steps and measures taken by the government in the last few months, there seems to be a change in the investment sentiments both in public and private sectors.
In order to curb inflationary pressure, the unions called for a ban on forward trading of commodities along with rationalisation of taxes on petroleum products.
For mobilisation of resources the unions suggested higher taxes for the "rich and affluent".
"A progressive taxation system should be put in place to ensure taxing the rich and the affluent sections who have the capacity to pay at a higher degree," their representation said adding that taxes on luxury goods should be increased and indirect taxes on essential commodities be reduced.