India presents pro-poor budget to appease small earners

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India unveiled a budget on Wednesday to help the poor with hikes in government spending and cuts in taxes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to win back the sympathy of voters hit hard by his recent crackdown on “black money”.

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This was also the first time in 92 years that the Railway Budget was presented together with the Union Budget.

There were key announcements in the budget, particularly in taxes, finance, political party funding, railways, and housing. Here are the highlights

Taxes and finance

  • Government to widen tax net as income tax payers are mostly salaried employees. Government decided to reduce burden on income tax payers.
  • Rate of income tax on income between Rs. 2.5 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh reduced to to 5% from the current 10%.
  • Government accepted recommendation of Black money special investigation team (SIT) to prohibit cash transaction above Rs. 3 lakh.
  • 10% Surcharge imposed for individuals with annual income between Rs 50 lakh and Rs. 1 crore.
  • Basic custom duty for LNG reduced from 2.5% from 5%.
  • Limit of cash donations by charitable trust brought down from Rs.10,000 to Rs 2,000.
  • Small companies that have a turnover above Rs.50 crore will now have to pay to pay 25% tax as against the 30% they have to pay now. Around 67 lakh companies fall within this category.

Railways

  • The Railways will focus on cleaner trains and dedicated trains for pilgrimage and tourism.
  • Railways lines of 3500 km to be commissioned this year. Dedicated trains for religious tourism.
  • By 2019, all coaches of Indian Railways will be fitted with bio-toilets.
  • In order to improve the security of Railways, unmanned level crossings are proposed to be eliminated by 2020.
  • At least 25 stations are expected to be awarded during 2017-18; 500 stations will be made differently abled-friendly by providing lifts and escalators.
  • In addition, a new metro rail policy will be announced, this will open up new jobs for the youth to modernise the Metro infrastructure.
  • Competitive booking prices will also be rolled out on IRCTC.

Aviation

  • Selective airports in tier 2 cities for development.

Agriculture

  • Double income in five years for farmers.
  • Strengthening social security net.
  • Target for agricultural credit– Rs. 10 lakh crore.
  • Fasal beema yojana coverage to be increased to 40 percent in 2017-18 and 50 percent in 2018-19.
  • Modern law on contract farming to be circulated in states.

Health

  • Senior citizens will be provided Aadhar cards mentioning their health conditions.
  • 2 new AIIMS to come up in Jharkhand in Gujarat.
  • Regulatory reform in medical sector along with push for more DNB courses in medical colleges of repute.
  • More doctors will be provided on tertiary level.
  • 28,000 arsenic and Flouride -affected areas to get safe drinking water in the next four years.

Rural sector

  • Total allocation given to rural sector along with agricultural and allied sector for 2017-18 fixed at Rs. 1,87,223 crore. This is a raise of 24% from the preceding year.
  • 50,000 gram panchayat to be made poverty free.
  • Geotagging all MGNREGA assets and put in public domain.
  • Allocation of Rs. 3 lakh crore for MGNREGA to double farmer’s income. Women participation in MGNREGA has increased from 48% to 55%.

Housing sector

  • Infrastructrure status granted to Housing sector after years of demands. Delayed residential projects to get boost. Fillip to real estate sector.
  • 1 crore houses under Housing for All this year.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana allocation up to Rs. 23,000 crore for this fiscal

Energy

  • 100 per cent village assured electrification by 1 March 2018.
  • Push for 20,000 MW increase in solar energy output.

Education

  • Innovation fund to promote local innovation; ICT enabled transformation, 3479 educationally backward blocks.
  • National Testing Agency to transform higher studies, entrance exam structure.

Reforms in Political parties’ funding

  • Max amount political party can receive in cash donation will be Rs 2000 from any one source.
  • Political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode.
  • Additional step amendment proposed to RBI act to enable issuance of electoral bonds in accordance to scheme by GOI. Donor could purchase bonds from authorised banks. Redeemable only in registered accounts of party.
Published on 1 February 2017 (With inputs from Indian Express and Agencies)

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