Never mess with the middle class. If the government didn't believe in this maxim before, it was forced to acknowledge this reality on Tuesday. The day after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley delivered his Budget speech in the Lok Sabha, one particular provision produced widespread anger, a top trend on Twitter and a petition on Change.org.
The provision in question is the Employee Provident Fund, which is crucial for salaried employees. With more than 3.7 crore subscribers, the retirement benefit scheme offers 8.8% returns and was exempt from taxes. For many people, this is the lone tax-saving tool.
So when the finance minister announced on Monday that 60% of Employee Provident Fund would be subject to tax, including on the principal, he did not make any friends.
The salaried classes, including trade unions, were outraged. This tweet summed up the general sentiment.
An online petition was started by a finance professional from Gurgaon, Vaibhav Aggarwal, seeking a rollback. By Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 people had signed the petition. In addition, #RollBackEPF was a top trend for most of the day as people vented their anger at the government.
Seemingly in damage control, the government sought to make some clarifications. First, the revenue secretary appeared to suggest that only the interest on EPF would be taxed. Then the finance ministry put out an official clarification which seemed to rollback the rollback, leaving everyone confused. By the evening, it appeared that the government was still considering its next move.
Meanwhile, others on social media sought to lighten the mood: