Seeking to woo farmers and the urban middle class ahead of parliamentary elections due in April-May, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday presented its final budget of its present term.
It announced Rs 6,000 per year cash support to 12 crore small and marginal farmers, a mega pension plan for 10 crore workers in unorganised sectors and a series of tax-breaks for salaried emppoyees.
The budget enhanced the outlay for the defence sector to more than Rs 3 lakh crore, the highest for India, and said “if necessary additional funds will also be provided.”
The budget, presented by acting Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, deputising for ailing Arun Jaitley, also announced a mega pension scheme for 10 crore workers with a monthly income of Rs 15,000 in the organised sector under which they will get an assured Rs 3,000 per month and a sharp hike in free cooking gas connections.
Presenting the sixth budget of the Modi government in parliament, Goyal said that under the cash dole scheme for farmers called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, Rs 6,000 will be transferred into bank accounts of farmers holding up to 2 hectares of land in three equal installments. This, he said, will benefit 12 crore farmers.
He said Rs 20,000 crore have been provided under the scheme for the current fiscal year ending on March 31 and announced an allocation of Rs 75,000 crore for the next fiscal.
Goyal also announced a 2% interest subvention to farmers pursuing animal husbandry and fisheries.
The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to cash in on the budgetary sops after it lost assembly elections in three major heartland states last year.
Goyal also announced that over 8 crore free cooking gas connections will be given in the new financial year beginning on April 1. At present, the government is providing around 6 crore connections.
For the salaried middle class, Goyal said people with an annual income of Rs 5 lakh would not have to pay income tax.
"India is solidly back on track. We have created the foundation for growth and prosperity for all people and create a new India by 2022," the finance minister said.
Highlighting the achievements of the BJP-led NDA government, he said India is now among the fastest growing major economies in the world and the GDP growth in last five years is higher than under any previous government.
He said India is poised to become a $5 trillion economy in the next five years and aspire to become a $10 trillion economy in the next eight years.
Goyal made a strong defence of Modi's shock demonetisation in 2016 saying that due to the ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, over 1 crore people have filed tax returns and anti-black money measures taken by the government last year uncovered undisclosed income of Rs 1.3 lakh crore.
“Our government is committed to eliminating the ills of black money,” he said in the backdrop of reports that demonetization also led to big job losses by affecting small and medium enterprises.