I congratulate the Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley for this budget. This budget strengthens the foundation stone of New India. The budget focus is on issues ranging from agriculture to Infrastructure. On one hand, budget covers aspects such as health plans to address the concerns of the poor and middle class, while on the other hand it has plans to increase the wealth of small entrepreneurs in the country. Other aspects range from food processing to fiber optics, from road to shipping, concerns of youth and the senior citizens, from rural India to Ayushman India and Digital India to Start up India.
This budget is expected to give a boost to hopes and aspirations of 125 crore people of the country. It is expected to accelerate the development process of the country. It is farmer friendly, common man friendly, business environment friendly as well as development friendly. Ease of Doing Business as well as Ease of Living are in focus in this budget. More savings for the middle class, new generation infrastructure for 21st Century India and better health assurance - all are concrete steps towards Ease of Living.
Our farmers have contributed in a big way towards the progress of the country with a record production of fruits and vegetables. Several steps have been proposed in this budget to give a boost to the farmers and enhancing their income. A record allocation of Rs. 14.5 lakh crores has been made for rural development and agriculture. Dalits, oppressed and disadvantaged sections of the society will be benefited with out of 51 Lakh new homes, more than 3 lakh kilometers of roads, about 2 crore toilets, electricity connections in 1.75 crore households. These initiatives will create new opportunities especially in the rural areas. I appreciate the decision to provide for one and a half times remunerative price for the cost incurred by the farmers for his produce. Center will put in place a sound system in consultation with the states to ensure that the farmers can avail full benefits from this decision. 'Operation Greens' will prove to be an effective instrument in this direction especially for the farmers engaged in producing vegetables and fruits. We have seen how Amul was instrumental in ensuring of fair price to the farmers engaged in the dairy sector. We are also familiar with the cluster based approach for the development of the industry in our country. Now, keeping in mind the agricultural produce in different districts, agricultural cluster approach will be adopted in different districts across the country. I welcome the plan to develop the storage, processing and marketing facilities for a particular agricultural produce after identifying the districts.
In our country, the cooperative societies are exempted from paying income tax. But the 'Farmer Producer Organization' -FPO, that is similar to the cooperative societies, does not get this benefit. Therefore, income tax exemption for the 'Farmer Producer Organization' -FPO, which mint for the welfare of the farmers, is a welcome step. By providing the linkages between the Self Help Groups for women engaged in organic, aromatic and herbal cultivation and the 'Farmer Producer Organizations' the income of the farmers will be increased. Similarly, the Gobar-Dhan Yojana will help in keeping the village clean, while increasing the income of farmers and cattle herders. In our country farmers take up different occupations along with the farming. Some are associated with pisciculture, animal husbandry, poultry or bee-keeping. Farmers have faced difficulty in accessing loans from banks for such additional activities. Arranging loan for pisciculture and animal husbandry by Kisan Credit Card is a very effective step. There are about 7000 blocks in more than 700 districts of India. In these blocks, emphasis has been laid on modernization of infrastructure of 22 thousand rural business centers, on innovation and on increasing connectivity in the villages. In the days to come, these centers will be able to increase the income of farmers, creates employment opportunities and will become new hubs of agro based rural and agricultural economy. Under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna, now the villages will be connected to rural haats (markets), higher education centers and hospitals. This will make life easier for the people in the villages.
We have seen an extension of the spirit of the Ease of Living in Ujjwala Yojana. The scheme has not only provided a relief to the poor women from the smoke but also become a huge source of their empowerment. I am happy to note that the target for Ujjawala has been enhanced from 5 crore families to 6 crore families. A large number of dalit, tribal and backward class families have been benefited from this scheme. This budget provides for allocation of about Rs 1 lakh crores for the welfare of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
Medical treatment and its cost has always been a cause of concern for the lower middle class and poor sections of the society. The new scheme 'Ayushman Bharat', presented in the budget, will address this serious concern. This scheme will be available to nearly 10 crore poor and lower middle class families of the country. It means it will provide coverage to 45-50 crore people. Under the scheme these families will get free treatment up to Rs. 5 lakhs per annum in the identified hospitals. This is by far, the world's largest health insurance plan for which government will bear the cost. The idea of setting up 1.5lakh Health Wellness Centers spread over all the major panchayats of the country is commendable. This will provide easy access to health care services to the people living in the villages. Establishment of 24 new medical colleges across the country will not only facilitate the treatment of the people but also help to impart medical education to the youngsters. It is our endeavor to have at least one medical college for covering three parliamentary constituencies across the country.
Several important decisions have been taken in this budget keeping in mind the concerns the Senior Citizens. Now the Senior Citizens will be entitled to have minimum interest of 8% on amount up to Rs 15 lakh under the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandan Yojana. No tax will be levied on interest up to Rs 50,000 on their Banks and Post Office deposits. Health insurance premium worth Rs 50,000 will exempt from the Income tax. Besides, relief from the Income Tax has been provided on expenditure up to Rs 1 lakh incurred on treatment of serious diseases.
For a long time, the small and medium enterprises or the MSME in our country had to pay higher taxes than the big industries. In a bold in this budget, the government has reduced the tax rate for MSME by 5% now they will have to pay 25% tax in place of 30% which was the practice earlier. Credit seeking facility from the banks and NBFCs has been eased to ensure the required working capital for MSME industries. It will give a boost to the mission of Make in India.
MSME sector has been experiencing stress due to NPA in big industries. The small entrepreneurs must not suffer because of the fault of others. Therefore, the government will soon announce corrective measures to resolve the problems related to NPA and Stressed Account in the MSME sector.
In order to promote the employment and to provide social security to the employees the government has taken a far reaching decision. This will give impetus to the shift from the informal to formal sector and it will generate new job opportunities. Now the government will contribute 12% in the EPF Account of the new laborers for a period of 3 years. Besides, the contribution of new women employees in the EPF for a period of 3 years is being reduced from the existing 12% to 8% so that their take home salary increases and more employment opportunities are available for the women. However, the employer contribution will be maintained at 12%. This is a major step towards empowerment of working women.
In order to realize the dream modern India, to enhance the Ease of Living of the common man and to ensure stability in development, India requires a Next Generation Infrastructure. Special emphasis has been given to the 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 the employment opportunity manifold in country.
I congratulate the Finance Minister for the tax concession to the salaried and the middle class.
This budget will live up to the expectation of every Indian Citizen. The budget has ensured the following remunerative price of the crop to the farmer, upliftment of the poor with the welfare schemes, respecting the honesty of the tax paying citizen, support to the spirit of entrepreneurs with a right tax structure and hailing the contribution of senior citizens for the country.
Once again my heartfelt congratulation to the Finance Minister and his team for presenting a budget which enhances the ease of living and laying a strong foundation for the New India."
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)