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Budget has Focus on Rural Economy & Ease of Living

Budget strengthens the foundation of New India in the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is expected to give a boost to the hopes and aspirations of 125 crore people and to accelerate development process of the country. The New India Budget is a farmer-friendly, common citizen friendly, business environment friendly and development friendly. It goes beyond ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and focuses on ‘Ease of Living’. The Union Budget 2018-19 presented in Parliament on Thursday February 1, 2018 by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has focus on issues ranging from agriculture to Infrastructure development, diversification, and pro-poor measures. National Health Protection Scheme announced will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries, by providing a health insurance cover of up to ₹5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization and will be the World’s largest Government funded Health Care Programme. Other aspects range from food processing to fibre optics, road to shipping, concerns of youth to those of senior citizens and Digital India to Start up India.

Highlights of Budget 2018-19 

  • Budget is guided by mission to strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment and infrastructure sectors
  • ₹3794 crore to MSME sector for giving credit support, capital and interest subsidy and innovations.
  • Series of structural reforms will propel India among the fastest growing economies of the world. Country firmly on course to achieve over 8% growth as manufacturing, services and exports back on good growth path.
  • Minimum Support Price for all unannounced kharif crops will be one and half times of their production cost.  If price of agriculture produce in the market is less than MSP, the government will purchase the produce at MSP or evolve mechanism to do so.
  • Institutional Farm Credit to be raised to ₹11 lakh crore in 2018-19 from 8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15.
  • Bharatmala Priyojana, a network of roads to connect remote and far-flung areas of the country, including borders and coastal areas: Budget proposes developing about 35000 km under Phase-I at estimated cost of ₹535000 crore.
  • 22,000 rural haats to be developed and upgraded into Gramin Agricultural Markets to protect the interests of 86% small and marginal farmers.
  • “Operation Greens” launched to address price fluctuations in potato, tomato and onion for benefit of farmers and consumers.
  • Two New Funds of ₹10000 crore announced for Fisheries and Animal Husbandry sectors;   Re-structured National Bamboo Mission gets ₹1290 crore.
  • Loans to Women Self Help Groups will increase to ₹75000 crore in 2019 from ₹42500 crore in the last year.
  • Higher targets for Ujjwala, Saubhagya and Swachh Mission to cater to lower and middle class in providing free LPG connections, electricity and toilets.
  • Outlay on health, education and social protection will be ₹1.38 lakh crore. Tribal students to get Ekalavya Model Residential School in each tribal block by 2022. Welfare fund for SCs gets a boost.
  • Highest ever allocation to fast forward Railway plan. ₹148528 crore earmarked to boost track conversion and capacity addition.
  • Corporate Tax: Companies with a turnover of up to ₹ 250 crore proposed to be taxed at 25%. This move will benefit 99% of companies and revenue foregone is pegged at ₹ 7000 crore in 2018-19.
  • Taxing Long Term Capital Gains exceeding ₹ 1 lakh on sale of equity shares/units of Equity oriented Fund at 10%, without allowing any indexation benefit but gains up to January 31, 2018 will be ‘grandfathered’.
  • Personal Income Tax structure remains the same as there is no new tax slab and no higher exemption limits but as a as a small concession a Standard Deduction of ₹ 40,000 for salaried taxpayers is reintroduced.
  • Senior citizens tax exemption of interest income from bank deposits proposed to be raised to ₹ 50000 from the current ₹ 10000. Deduction under health insurance premium under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act to be raised to ₹ 50000 from ₹ 30000 and for critical illnesses deduction increased to ₹ 1 lakh. These concessions are expected to give senior citizens extra tax benefit of ₹ 4000 crore. Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana to be extended up to March 2020 under which an assured return of 8% is given by Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and the existing limit on investment of ₹ 7.5 lakh per senior citizen is being enhanced to ₹ 15 lakh.
  • Automatic revision of emoluments parliamentarians every five years, pegged to inflation.
  • Government will contribute 12% of the wages of new employees under the Employees Provident Fund Organisation across sectors for the next three years. And women employees’ contribution will be reduced to 8% for first three years of their employment against the existing 12% or 10% with no change in employers’ contribution.
  • Disinvestment target for 2018-19 set at ₹80,000 crore.
  • Fiscal Deficit pegged at 3.5 % for 2017-18, rest it at 3.3 % for 2018-19.

Specific measures outlined to alleviate the lot of senior citizens are based on the feedback from retired persons on the crisis they faced in recent months owing to the dipping interest rates on savings instruments, including on small savings schemes. “A life with dignity is a right of every individual, in general, more so for the senior citizens,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his Budget speech and further said, “To take care of those who cared for us is one of the highest honours,” he stressed, before laying out a series of steps to give them a ‘dignified life.’

Making the announcement while presenting the Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said creating job opportunities and facilitating employment generation had been at the core of the government. He said that the country has grown on an average of 7.5 per cent in the first three years of the current government and has become a USD 2.5 trillion economy. “We hope to grow at 7.2 to 7.5 per cent in the second half of the current fiscal”. “India has already become 7th largest economy of the world and it is expected to become 5th largest economy soon”.

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