The key focus of the Budget 2018-19 is on strengthening the rural economy and reviving up growth in the rural sector. To that end a slew of measures have been announced in the Budget which among other include higher MSPs for kharif crops, upgradation of rural haats to give farmers better access to formal mandi, increase in institutional farm credit, new funds for Fisheries and Animal Husbandry sectors, more fund for re-structured National Bamboo Mission fund, allocation for deprived irrigation districts, extension of the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers to help them meet their working capital needs. All these measures would transform rural India in a big way.
For the benefit of lower and middle class the measures like increase in loans to Woman Self Help Groups, higher targets for Ujjwala, Saubhagya in providing free LPG connections, electricity and toilets have been announced.
These measures, coupled with the mega health insurance programme for the poor and massive spending on rural infrastructure, will go a long way in strengthening the rural economy and boosting consumption in the hinterland.
Among the most important initiatives in the budget is the health insurance scheme which is set to benefit 100 million households with coverage of Rs. 5 lakh per annum. This is by far, the world's largest health insurance plan for which government will bear the cost. Setting up 1.5 lakh Health Wellness Centers spread over all the major panchayats of the country will bring healthcare to the doorsteps of the rural people.
Several announcements have been made in the budget in respect of Senior Citizens. Senior citizens will now be entitled to have a minimum interest of 8% on amount up to Rs.15 lakh under the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandan To jana. No tax will be levied on interest up to Rs. 50,000 on their Bank and Post Office deposits. Besides, relief from Income Tax has been provided on expenditure up to Rs. 1 lakh incurred on treatment of serious diseases.
In this budget, the government has reduced the tax rate for MSME by 5%.They will now have to pay only 25% tax in place of 30% which was the practice earlier. Credit seeking from the banks and NBFCs has been eased to ensure the required working capital for MSME industries. It will give a further impetus to the mission of 'Make in India'.
Special emphasis has been given to development of infrastructure related to Digital India. Allocation of Rs. 6 lakh crores has been made which is Rs. 1 lakh crore more than the previous year. These schemes will enhance employment opportunities in our country manifold.
Lauding the Budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the focus of the budget is on issues ranging from Agriculture to Infrastructure. It is expected to give a boost to the hopes and aspirations of 125 crore people of the country and accelerate the development process.
Finance Minister ended his budget speech by quoting from Vivekananda's Memoirs of European Travel:"You merge yourselves in the void and disappear, and let new India arise in your place. Let her arise - out of the peasant's cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fisherman. Let her spring from the grocer's shop, from beside the oven of the fritter seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts, and from markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains ".Truly, an apt quote to conclude the Budget which strives to empower the informal economy.
Assistant Professor (ME)
JIMS, Greater Noida