In the ten years that UPA was in power, India went from a GDP Growth rate of 8.4% to 4.8%. Our Current Account Deficit, which stood at a surplus of 8.7 billion US$ under the NDA, became a negative of 0.1 by the end of UPA II.
Industrial Production was brought down to 0 in FY 2013-14 and the Manufacturing Growth dipped from +7.3 to a -0.1. This is the UPA Government’s legacy.
Picking up from such a situation and rebuilding the country’s economy is a tough task, but one that we have already begun doing. The nation gave my party and our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi a resounding mandate to ensure that India gets back on track. With the presentation of the first budget, the Modi Government and our Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley has set the ball rolling for a path-breaking five years. The journey is one that will be tough, there will be compromises to be made but the end result would be something that the people of this nation will savor.
Personally, I feel these aspects of the budget stand out:
- With the allocation of Rs 100 crore for the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme, the Government has placed central importance on the empowerment of women and has emphasized that gender equality is the prime focus. The Government has taken steps to support women from birth to education and beyond.
- The compassionate side of the Modi Government is reflected by the provision of a scheme for Disabled Persons wherein purchase of Aids and Appliances (ADIP) will be extended to include contemporary aids and assistive devices. It also includes the establishment of a National level institutes for Universal Inclusive Design, Mental Health Rehabilitation and a Centre for Disability Sports. Another interesting initiative is the inclusion of Braille in our currency. Though these measures appear small, have the potential to significantly impact the lives of the disabled for the better.
- This Budget has allocated a large corpus for Ajeevika, the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), which aims to eliminate rural poverty through sustainable livelihood options. Under this mission, Women SHGs are provided bank loans at 4% on prompt repayment in 150 districts.
- As anticipated, the Modi Government has laid down the foundation for building India of the 21st century. The next generation of education reforms is one that will be deeply trenched in the use of technology for learning. The Budget has set aside 100 crores for setting up virtual classrooms through Communication Linked Interface for Cultivating Knowledge (CLICK) and online courses.
- This Budget has seen a progressive and liberal change in FDI. From the existing 26%, the FDI in defence has been increased to 49%, with full Indian management and control through the FIPB route. The same change is being incorporated in the insurance sector as the composite cap has been raised to 49% from 26%.
- Betterment of sanitation facilities takes priority and this budget has emphasized on the same through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheme. This scheme not only ensures a clean and healthy India, but is a significant step towards women empowerment in the real sense.
- A large majority of the unemployed in India lack the skills and training required to get jobs. To address this issue, a national multi-skill programme called Skill India is to be launched. It would empower the youth with an emphasis on employability and entrepreneurial skills. It will also provide training and support for traditional professions like welding, carpenting, cobbling etc.
- Taking forward the Vajpayee Government’s telecom revolution to the next phase, the Budget has allocated 500 crores towards broadband access at the village level, and has provided support for software product startups and a instituted a National Rural Internet and Technology Mission for services in villages and schools. It has also announced for training in IT skills and E-Kranti for Government service delivery.
- The Government has paid special attention to solid waste management in cities. The Government aims to harness private capital and funding through the PPP model to see an improvement in solid waste management.
- It’s heartening to know that the Government has set aside a considerable amount of money for the betterment of the education system in the country. The budget also provides for the setting up of drinking water and toilets in all girl schools. What makes the education policy special is the setting up of a School Assessment Programme for 30 crores and a New Teachers Training programme at the cost of 500 crores for the motivation and development of teachers.
- The Budget takes an innovative and progressive step to tackling the issue of Slum development by including slum development in the list of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. This step seems very promising especially for my city of Mumbai.
- The attention paid to scientific development in this budget is a clear indicator of its forward thinking. The Government proposes to develop biotech clusters in Faridabad and Bengaluru, which will be scaled up to the international standard.
- The Government has also planned to set up 5 new IIT’s and 5 new IIM’s. I am glad to note that one an IIM is now going to come up in Maharashtra. The Budget has allocated 500 crores to see these projects to completion. Apart from which, a plan to set up four more AIIMS like institutions, including one in Vidarbha of Maharashtra, is under consideration.
- Housing for all will be provided by year 2022. For this purpose, the Budget has extended additional tax incentive on home loans to encourage people, especially the young, to own houses. The importance of low cost affordable housing was also emphasized as the government allocated 4,000 crores to the National Housing Bank to increase the flow of cheaper credit for affordable housing to the urban poor/EWS/LIG segment.
- This Budget like all budgets had a comprehensive development plan in the field of agriculture. However the Finance Minister has addressed some specific problems that have plagued the sector in the past. Deteriorating soil health has been a cause of concern and leads to sub-optimal utilization of farming resources. The Government will initiate a scheme to provide to every farmer a soil health card in a Mission mode. The budget proposes to set aside a sum of 100 crore for this purpose and an additional 56 crores to set up 100 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories across the country.
- The lack of long term financing for infrastructure has been a major constraint in encouraging larger private sector participation. The Budget will now allow banks to extend long term loans to infrastructure sector with flexible structuring to absorb potential adverse contingencies.
- India’s brave soldiers are finally being compensated with the amount they deserve through the government’s new ‘One rank One pension’ scheme. This scheme aims to solve the issue of pension disparities so that soldiers may have comfortable lives in retirement. A sum of 1000 crores has been set aside for this scheme.
- Over the last few years, India has faced constant threats on her borders. Hence, the Budget has allocated 2,250 crores to improve border infrastructure.
- The scheme for the modernization of India’s police force is being revamped as the funding of the scheme has increased from 1,847 crores to 3,000 crores.
- I am extremely glad that the Government is honouring our soldiers and their sacrifice. A sum of 100 crores has been allocated for the creation of a War memorial to remember the sacrifice our soldiers have made in the countless battles fought against our enemies. The budget doesn’t leave out the Police as it also sets aside 50 crores for the creation a National Police memorial to honor the men and women who’ve given their lives for upholding the law and fighting domestic enemies.
- The value and importance of the North-Eastern states has been realized by the government as a lot of schemes and funds have been directed towards these states. Firstly, 100 crores has been set aside to create a sports university in Manipur. The potential for organic farming in the North East is vast and the government has decided to allocate 100 crores to improve organic farming in the area. Over 4000 crores have been allocated to improve transport in the North East with 1000 crores to be spent on Railway connectivity and 3000 crores spent on developing roads in the region. A new 24×7 channel called “Arun Prabha” will be launched to share the North East’s rich cultural and linguistic identity.
- Employment exchanges will now be transformed into career centers. These centers will extend counseling facilities to the youth for selecting the jobs best suited to their ability and aptitude. The Budget has allocated 100 crores for this plan.
- The manufacturing sector is of paramount importance for the growth of our economy. This sector has multiplier effect on creation of jobs. Considering the need to incentivize smaller entrepreneurs, the Budget proposes to provide investment allowance at the rate of 15% to a manufacturing company that invests more than 25 crores in any year in new plant and machinery.
- Kashmiri migrants have suffered displacement and homelessness for a long time. Displaced Kashmiri migrants require the government’s special support for rehabilitation. For this, the government intends to provide a sum of 500 crore.
- With this budget the government has taken steps to provide relief to small and marginal taxpayers and senior citizens. The personal income tax exemption limit has been raised from 2 lakhs to 2.5 lakhs and 3 lakhs from 2.5 lakhs for senior citizens. This will ensure that taxpayers will have to opportunity to increase their standard of living and increase their savings. This will go a long way in ensuring an increased capital foundation in the country.
The 2014 budget has laid the foundation for a glorious and prosperous India. I’m grateful for this non-political, people-oriented and pragmatic budget. It is my belief that India will henceforth proudly stand on the strong agenda of growth and bid goodbye to the clutches of populism.