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India unveils budget with more focus on farmers, health

Feb 01, 2018

The budget provisions claim to strengthen agriculture and rural economy, provisioning for good health care to economically less privileged.

New Delhi: Presenting the General Budget 2018-19 in Parliament, Indian Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitely said that his government was working sincerely for the welfare of people without weighing political costs.

Talking about various development measures, he said that the government had taken up programmes to benefit farmers, poor and other vulnerable sections and also to uplift the under-developed regions of the country.

Jaitley said that this year’s Budget will consolidate these gains and particularly focus on strengthening agriculture and rural economy, provisioning for good health care to economically less privileged, taking care of senior citizens, infrastructure creation and working with the States to provide more resources for improving the quality of education in the country.

Jaitley announced that the government has decided to keep Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all hitherto unannounced crops of Kharif at least at one and half times of their production cost. “This historic decision would prove an important step towards doubling the income of our farmers and NITI Ayog in consultation with Central and State Governments will put in place a fool proof mechanism so that farmers will get adequate price for their produce,” he said.

Jaitley also announced important measures to give a boost to livelihoods in rural areas of the country. “As my proposals outlined indicate, focus of the Government next year will be on providing maximum livelihood opportunities in the rural areas by spending more on livelihood, agriculture and allied activities and construction of rural infrastructure,” the Minister said.

Jaitley said that four years ago, the government pledged to give an honest, clean and transparent Government. “We promised a leadership capable of taking difficult decisions to restore strong performance of Indian economy. We promised to reduce poverty, expedite infrastructure creation and build a strong, confident and a New India,” he said.

Talking about various initiatives, he said that government is providing free LPG connections to the poor through UjjwalaYojana. Under Saubhagya Yojna 4 crore households are being provided with electricity connections. More than 800 medicines are being sold at lower price, through more than 3 thousand Jan Aushadhi Centers.

On the health front, he said that cost of stents has been controlled while special scheme for free dialysis of poor have been initiated. “Persons belonging to poor and middle class are also being provided a great relief in interest rates on housing schemes. Efforts are being made to provide all government services, whether bus or train tickets or individual certificates on line. These include passports which may be delivered at doorstep in two or three days or Company registration in one day time,” he said.

Jaitley said that govt’s welfare schemes have benefited a large section of our country. “Certificate attestation is not mandatory; interviews for appointment in Group C and Group D posts have been done away with. These measures have saved time and money of lakhs of our youth. Our government by using modern technology is committed to provide a relief to those who suffer because of rigid rules and regulations, he said.

Jaitley said that benefits to the poor have been targeted more effectively with use of digital technology. “The demonetization of high value currency has reduced the quantum of cash currency in circulation. It has increased the taxation base and spurred greater digitization of the economy. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has changed the lender-debtor relationship. The recapitalized banks will now have greater ability to support growth. All these structural reforms will help Indian economy achieve stronger growth in the medium and long run,” he said.

The Finance Minister said that India achieved an average growth of 7.5% in first three years of our Government. Indian economy is now 2.5 trillion dollar economy – seventh largest in the world. India is expected to become the fifth largest economy very soon. On Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis, we are already the third largest economy, the Finance Minister added.

Stressing on the need of good governance, the Finance Minister said that such a vision has inspired Government agencies to carry out hundreds of reforms in policies, rules and procedures.

Jaitley assured that natural resources are now being allocated in a transparent and honest manner and there is a premium on honesty. This transformation is reflected in improvement of India’s ranking by 42 places in last three years in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ with India breaking into top 100 for the first time.

Jaitley said that benefits of Governmental programmes are delivered directly to eligible beneficiaries. Aadhar which provided an identity to every Indian has eased delivery of so many public services to our people, he said.

The Finance Minister said that many services and benefits are being delivered to the people at their doorsteps or in their accounts. “It has reduced corruption and cost of delivery and has eliminated middlemen in the process. Direct Benefit Transfer mechanism of India is the biggest such exercise in the world and is a global success story. The Finance Minister pointed out that every enterprise, major or small, also needs a unique ID. He said that the Government will evolve a Scheme to assign every individual enterprise in India a unique ID,” he said.

Jaitley also announced that 187 projects have been sanctioned under Namami Gange Programme for infrastructure development, reverse surface cleaning, rural sanitation and other interventions at a cost of Rs.16, 713 crore. “47 projects have been completed and remaining projects are at various stages of execution All 4465 Ganga Grams villages on the bank of river have been declared open defecation free,” he said.

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