A people-friendly budget

PM Modi’s budget would not only give relief to people but also enhance credibility of the nation

pankaj-singh

Pankaj Singh | July 15, 2014



It was not only the people of the country but opposition political parties were also eagerly waiting for the Union budget to be presented under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi. With the budget in the public domain now, people are rejoicing but the opposition appears to be clueless and searching for loopholes to take on the budget. But as the PM said, the budget is a sanjeevini to the people.

The budget is clearly directed towards economic growth and increased investment to benefit the middle class in the long run. It also caters to the neo-middle class that accounts for roughly 60-65 percent of the country's population. The ambitious project of the PM to develop 100‘Smart cities’ as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernising existing mid-sized cities has been allocated Rs 7,060 crore in the budget. Interestingly, Uttar Pradesh will have around 13 such cities. To benefit salaried class people, exemption limit has been raised from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh. Limit for senior citizens has been increased from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh. Pooled Municipal Debt Obligation Facility has been enhanced by Rs 5,000 crore to make it Rs 50,000 crore with extension of the facility by five years to March 31, 2019. This is meant for cleanliness and improving infrastructure of the cities.

From agriculture to housing to industry to irrigation to Ganga, you name it and the budget has them all. With the PM representing Uttar Pradesh and the state having resources, not only natural but human as well, needed more attention. The health sector has been an area of major concern and with the budget proposing an AIIMS in Poorvanchal (Eastern UP) would not only ease burden on the AIIMS in Delhi but also people of the area in the bargain. And Lucknow gets the much-awaited Metro rail for city transportation. To be specific, handloom industry of Varanasi, for which the city is known for, had been in complete neglect. The budget provided the much-needed Rs 50 crore for its growth, besides providing for textile mega clusters in Bareilly and Lucknow.

Though the Indian Waterways Authority was set up in 1986, it remained an unutilized area that should have been tapped long back, a 1,620-km-long National Waterway I between Allahabad and Haldia is proposed to be developed with an expenditure of Rs 4,200 crore for swift transportation of goods. Besides water highway, conservation of Ganga has been given equal importance with ‘Namami Gange’ project with an outlay of Rs 2,037 crore. Development of ghats and their beatification is also proposed for in Kanpur,Varanasi and Allahabad while work is already on in Varanasi. Under the HRIDAY Yojna ancient cities of importance like Mathura, Amritsar, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Vellankani and Ajmer would be conserved and preserved, attracting more and more religious tourists. Varanasi and Sarnath have special importance, so Sarnath-Gaya-Varanasi will be developed as a Buddhist circuit. The government has earmarked Rs 500 crore to create five tourist circuits, specially religious and heritage tourism. The government also proposed to spend Rs 100 crore on the National Mission on Pilgrimage and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) while Rs 200 crore on heritage cities, which is also religious tourism. Religious tourism has a lot of potential, however, it has been neglected. As per an estimate, the number of foreign tourists in 2012 was 65.80 lakh while domestic tourists were 102.70 lakh. But actual number of domestic, mostly religious, tourists is much more than this.

Increasing agriculture produce is a big challenge. Agriculture is an important means of livelihood, at least in UP, and due to the declining soil health, production of foodgrain might decline. The budget proposal has total Rs 156 crore for soil health, including setting up of 100 soil health laboratories. Now, irrigation is a major concern for farmers. The Union budget provides Rs 1,000 crore through Pradhanmantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna to improve access to irrigation, making farmers’ life easy. This is going to help farmers of Bundelkhand where irrigation is a big problem with ground water level down beyond imagination. This policy will also benefit farmers with small tracts of land.

Providing loans of up to Rs 5 lakh to groups of landless farmers is a boon as such people are in a big number in Uttar Pradesh. The state would definitely have a big share in Rs 8 lakh crore earmarked for agriculture loan. An exclusive TV channel is proposed for farmers as well. Cleanliness is an area where we are below the standard. The government is emphasizing on cleanliness, with the intention of covering every household of the country by total sanitation by 2019, which could be a real homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. The budget also proposed rural electrification with the slogan ‘electricity to every house’ by setting aside Rs 500 crore. Providing Rs 3,600 crore for safe drinking water shows the concern of the government.

The government made commitment to provide toilets and drinking water to all girls’ schools and an amount of Rs 28,635 crore is being given to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rs 4,966 crore for Rshtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. The National Rural Livelihood Mission (Ajeevika) is to eliminate poverty through sustainable livelihood option by providing self-help groups to get loans at 4 percent. This has been extended to 250 districts now. One of the most important announcements in the budget is developing indigenous cattle breed as several international researches show that milk of Indian breed cow is better for heath than any other.

The Pradhanmatri Gram Sadak Yojna of NDA 1 is once again given importance in the budget, with Rs 14,380 crore for this segment. Rural housing has also been a major concern, for which allocation for the year 2014-15 for National Housing Bank has been increased to Rs 8,000 crore. The Rural Infrastructure Development Fund has been given additional Rs 5,000 crore, however, in the interim budget it was Rs 25,000 crore. Plan spending on digital connectivity in the rural area for developing IT skills for rural folks is proposed to be Rs 500 crore, as employability is the main concern.

To remove regional imbalances, the budget has provisions for regional economic development. There is a provision of Rs 100 crore for the growth of organic food in northeastern region and an additional Rs 1,000 crore has been set aside for development of railways in the area. The Mysore textile industry has been given Rs 100 crore, while the Andaman and Nicobar Island and Puducherry have been given Rs 150 crore and Rs 188 crore, respectively. Delhihas been given Rs 700 crore for electricity and water management. Besides, the government proposes to develop an industrial corridor with an expenditure of Rs 100 crore. Amritsar-Kolkata Master Plan will be completed expediently, establishing industrial smart cities in seven states. Three new smart cities are planned in Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor, Vizag-Ponneri in Tamil Nadu, Krishnanagar in Andhra Pradesh and Tumkur in Karnataka, besides 20 new industrial clusters that include Bengaluru Mumbai Economic corridor and Vizag-Chennai corridors. Kakinada will be developed as hardware manufacturing hub. The budget proposes to establish an export promotion mission to bring all players under one umbrella. The government is also committed for the revival of Special Economic Zones besides other growth stimulus.

With all economic concerns and growth proposals, the budget has some very unique initiatives. In view of country facing constant threat on terror issues, the police are ceaselessly engaged with enemy within the country and even sacrifice their lives. The budget proposes National Police Memorial with an allocation of Rs 50 crore. And to commemorate the sacrifices of Armed forces war heroes who had laid down their lives fighting for the nation, the budget has provisions for a war memorial in Prince Park, to be supplemented by a war museum, for which Rs 100 crore has been earmarked.

The Union budget also provided for Rs 500 crore as Price Stabilizing Fund to mitigate uncertainties and hardships of farmers. Looking at the totality of the budget, it appears that it would not only give relief to people but also enhance credibility of the nation.

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