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In the last full budget by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance before the election in 2019, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley increased the allocation for agriculture by 13% and infrastructure by 21% with a clear focus on rural India, where 69% of the population or 834 million Indians live.
Jaitley set aside Rs 5.97 lakh crore in the Budget 2018-19 for infrastructure, an increase of 21% against the revised estimate of Rs 4.94 lakh crore for 2017-18.
The government has decided to increase the minimum support price (MSP)–at which it buys produce from farmers–for kharif (monsoon) crops to one-and-half times the production cost.
This may come as relief to farmers at a time when a glut in tur (pigeon pea), a kharif crop, led to a fall in MSP, leading to unrest and stress in rural Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Gujarat, as IndiaSpend reported on June 8, 2017.
A new scheme, Operation Greens, has been given Rs 5 billion (Rs 500 crore ) to address price volatility of farm commodities, such as tomato, potato and onion, at a time when farmers dumped potato by the wayside in Uttar Pradesh in January 2018, IndiaSpend reported on January 26, 2018.
Agriculture credit has been increased by 10%–or Rs 1 trillion - Rs 11 trillion (Rs 1 lakh crore–to Rs 11 lakh crore) for 2018-19.
Despite a 11% rise in loans to agriculture over a year to a record Rs 10 trillion (Rs 10 lakh crore) in 2017-18, the share of professional moneylenders in agricultural credit has increased, IndiaSpend reported on January 5, 2018.
Irrigation, crop insurance also gets more funds
In 2018-19, irrigation projects will start in 96 “deprived-irrigation districts”–where less than 30% of farmland is irrigated–with Rs 26 billion (Rs 2,600 crore) set aside under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) or the Prime Minister’s Irrigation Programme.
In financial year 2017-18, when eight states declared drought, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana–Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme–has been given a 22% budget boost, from the revised estimate of Rs 106.98 billion (Rs 10,698 crore) in 2017-18 to Rs 13,000 crore.
Transport sector in focus
“Infrastructure is the growth driver of economy,” Jaitley said in his speech. “Our country needs massive investments estimated to be in excess of Rs 50 lakh crore in infrastructure to increase growth of GDP, connect and integrate the nation with a network of roads, airports, railways, ports and inland waterways and to provide good quality services to our people.”
The transport sector received an “all-time high allocation” of Rs 1.35 trillion (Rs 1.35 lakh crore).
About 35,000 km of road construction in phase-I has been approved under the Bharatmala Pariyojana (road and highways project), with an estimated cost of Rs 5.35 triilion (Rs 5.35 lakh crore). In 2017-18, the government also plans to complete national highways exceeding 9,000 km.
The government has maintained its allocation to the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana–Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Programme—at Rs 190 billion (Rs 19,000 crore), same as last year.
|Capital Budget For The Infrastructure Sector|
|Ministry/Department||Revised Estimate 2017-18 (In Rs crore)||Budget Estimate 2018-19 (In Rs crore)|
|Ministry of Coal||14,478||15,799|
|Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region||330||600|
|Ministry of New and Renewable Energy||9,516||10,317|
|Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas||88,850||92,885|
|Ministry of Power||65,201||54,770|
|Ministry of Civil Aviation||2,693||4,086|
|Department of Telecommunication||13,541||21,486|
|Ministry of Defence||4,908||5,485|
|Ministry of Railways||1,20,000||1,46,500|
|Department of Atomic Energy||9,220||7,321|
|Ministry of Housing And Urban Affairs||39,046||61,361|
|Ministry of Road Transport and Highways||1,10,137||1,21,425|
|Ministry of Shipping||3,290||4,292|
|Ministry of Steel||11,428||11,294|
|Department of Higher Education||250||30,750|
|Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology||1,426||8,773|
Source: Budget 2018-19
To improve connectivity in the border areas, Jaitley proposed construction of tunnel under Sela Pass–located between Tawang and west Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
“Rohtang tunnel has been completed to provide all weather connectivity to the Ladakh region, and contract for construction of Zojila Pass tunnel of more than 14 km is progressing well,” Jaitley said.
The government identified 73 strategically important roads along the India-China border, according to this report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, the auditor of the government, in March 2017, IndiaSpend reported on January 31, 2018.
Of these 73 roads, the construction of 61, estimated to cost Rs 46.44 billion (Rs 4,644 crore), was assigned to Border Roads Organisation with a deadline of 2012. “Only 22 roads were completed till March 2016, which incurred expenditure worth Rs 4,536 crore or 98% of the estimated cost,” the CAG report had said.
Of the 24 roads selected for audit, only six roads, costing Rs 1.64 billion (Rs 164 crore), were completed up to March 2016. “Even these were not fit for running specialised vehicles/equipment due to limitations in execution of works”, the CAG report said.
The government more than doubled the allocation for Digital India programme to Rs 30.73 billion (Rs 3,073 crore) in 2018-19 from the revised estimates of Rs 14.26 billion (Rs 1,426 crore) in 2017-18, in a push for digital infrastructure.
The government has identified 99 cities that will collectively get Rs 2.04 trillion (Rs 2.04 lakh crore) under the Smart Cities Mission to develop infrastructure. Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation programme–to upgrade urban infrastructure, such as water supply and sewage–state plans for 500 cities, with a budget of Rs 776.4 billion (Rs 77,640 crore), has been approved, the finance minister said.
(Paliath and Mallapur are analysts with IndiaSpend.)
Reprinted with permission from IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit organisation. You can read the original article here.