By SR Patnaik & Rashi Gupta
Indian Union Budget 2021-22: Covid-19 pandemic gripped the world in year 2020 and shoved it towards a new order of doing things. While the pandemic slowly and steadily spread across the world, it changed a lot of perceptions, touched the life of every one of us in its own way and taught us a decade worth of lessons. It gave us a fast paced peek into the future and while we were scrambling to adjust to the new ways, many people have been left far behind, yet again!
While regular business meetings, court hearings and classroom sessions got stalled completely for a few weeks, it was sooner rather than later realized that the pandemic is not going away in a short time. Businesses, professionals and even our country’s Courts switched over to virtual meetings and platforms to conduct their official work daily. Digital networks and mobiles evolved from being a luxury to an absolute necessity for most people, including our children who turned to such devices for their basic educational needs. Students missed out (and are still missing) on several crucial months of their studies due to the onset of the pandemic and many schools took effective steps to organize virtual classrooms to continue with the studies. To say the least, we learnt that the virtual way of doing things is here to stay, which would be partially retained in the post-Covid times and would only increase from thereon.
However, this is all happening in the times when a significant part of our population in rural areas and even in cities do not own a smartphone or have any sort of internet connectivity or medium to gain access to various online applications. It is here that we see a significant opportunity for the Government to invest in and bring in a revolutionary change at the grassroot level as digital access to online applications has become a necessity. At this juncture, we must decide whether to move on to the new order of doing things alone or to take each and every person, especially the young children along with us, while we move forward to a digital era. For this purpose, budget can offer tax benefits to various organizations, companies and employers to take meaningful steps in this direction by providing their employees and workers, especially those having low wages, with internet-enabled devices for their use and for their homes, which can also be used for their children’s education.
(SR Patnaik is a Partner & Head – Taxation at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; and Rashi Gupta is an Associate at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. The views expressed by the autors are their own)