In his Budget speech last week, when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee quoted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet “I must be cruel only to be kind”, some people wondered what he meant. At a post-Budget meeting between Confederation of Indian Industry members and Finance Secretary R S Gujral, tax expert Satya Poddar said he did not understand what was cruel in the Budget. Gujral replied it was the increase in service tax and the excise duty rate by two per cent. But Poddar’s point was that that was actually a kindness because “it could have been four per cent”!
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