Gujarat Global News Network, New Delhi
Major focus on agriculture and farmers’ welfare, massive mission to provide LPG connection to poor households, a new health protection scheme, increased outlay for infrastructure, Rs. 2.87 Lakh crore Grant in Aid to Gram Panchayats and Municipalities, setting up of 1500 Multi Skill Training Institutes and incentives for jobs creation are major highlights of the General Budget 2016-17 presented in Lok Sabha today by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Announcing a number of new schemes and increasing the allocation in various sectors Jaitley underlined that the Government is firm on its course towards fiscal consolidation without compromising on its development agenda. He said 3.5% fiscal deficit is targeted for FY 2016- 17.
While cautioning about the risks of further global slowdown and mounting turbulence, he said this complicates the task of economic management for India. He said the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17 have been and will be extremely challenging for Government expenditure. He said the next financial year will cast an additional burden on account of the recommendations of the 7thCentral Pay Commission and the implementation of Defence OROP. Stating that the Government has to prioritise its expenditure, Jaitley said the Government wants to enhance expenditure in the farm and rural sector, the social sector, the infrastructure sector and provide for recapitalisation of the banks.
Jaitley said the Government will undertake significant reforms such as the enactment of a law to ensure that all Government benefits are conferred upon persons who deserve it, by giving a statutory backing to the AADHAR platform. He added that significant changes will be brought in the legislative framework relating to the transport sector so as to free it from constraints and restrictions. Other important reforms, the Finance Minister announced included incentivizing gas discovery and exploration by providing calibrated marketing freedom; enactment of a comprehensive law to deal with resolution of financial firms; providing legal framework for dispute resolution in PPP projects and public utility contracts; undertaking important banking sector reforms and public listing of general insurance companies and undertaking significant changes in FDI policy.
The Finance Minister said the agenda for the next year will be to ‘Transform India’ in this direction. He highlighted that the budget proposals are built on this transformative agenda with nine distinct pillars which include: Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare; Rural Sector; Social Sector including Healthcare; Education, Skills and Job Creation; Infrastructure and Investment; Financial Sector Reforms; Governance and Ease of Doing Business; Fiscal Discipline and Tax Reforms.
Jaitley announced that the Government will reorient its interventions in the farm and non-farm sectors to double the income of the farmers by 2022. He said total allocation for Agriculture and farmers’ Welfare is Rs. 35,984 crore. Stating that the ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana’ has been strengthened and will be implemented in mission mode, he said 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation under this Scheme. He also underlined that the implementation of 89 irrigation projects under AIBP, which have been languishing will be fast tracked.
The Finance Minister announced creation of a dedicated Long Term Irrigation Fund in NABARD with an initial corpus of about Rs. 20,000 crore. To achieve all these, a total provision of Rs. 12,517 crore has been made through budgetary support and market borrowings in 2016-17. He also said, simultaneously a major programme for sustainable management of ground water resources has been prepared with an estimated cost of Rs. 6,000 crore and proposed for multilateral funding. The Minister said at least 5 lakh farm ponds and dug wells in rain fed areas and 10 lakh compost pits for production of organic manure will be taken up by making use of allocations under MGNREGA.
He said the Soil Health Card Scheme will cover all 14 crore farm holdings by March 2017. He said 2,000 model retail outlets of fertilizer companies will be provided with soil and seed testing facilities during the next three years.
The Finance Minister announced that the allocation under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has been increased to Rs. 19,000 crore and it will connect remaining 65,000 eligible habitations by 2019.
The Finance Minister informed that for effective implementation of Prime Minister Fasal Bima Yojana, Rs. 5,500 crore have been provided in the Budget 2016-17. He said to make dairying more remunerative to the farmers, four new projects will be taken up: First the ‘Pashudhan Sanjivani’, an animal wellness programme and provision of Animal Health Cards (‘Nakul Swasthya Patra’); Second , an Advanced breeding technology; Third, Creation of ‘E-Pashudhan Haat’, an e market portal for connecting breeders and farmers; and Fourth, a National Genomic Centre for indigenous breeds. These projects will be implemented at a cost of Rs. 850 crores over the next few years.