With months shy of the decisive elections, the Narendra Modi government presented a pro-farmer and please all, poll minded Budget with sops to appease an overwhelming share of voters.
The Budget though populist in tone and tenor did manage to strike a canny balance between generous doles and fiscal consolidation.
What many viewed as a masterstroke was the announcement of a novel scheme for the distressed farm community loosely based on Odisha’s KALIA scheme enunciated earlier.
“To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, our Government is launching a historic programme namely “Pradhan Mantri KIsan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)”. Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs 6,000 per year. This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000 each. This programme will be funded by Government of India. Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this”, Minister for finance Piyush Goyal said in his Budget speech for FY 2019-20.
The programme would be made effective from 1st December 2018 and the first instalment for the period upto 31st March 2019 would be paid during this year itself. This programme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 75,000 crore. PM-KISAN would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season. PM-KISAN would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
The new agriculture centric scheme despite noteworthy was taken with a pinch of salt by the Opposition. Congress said the provision for Rs 17 per day to the distressed farmers was woefully insufficient for them. In Odisha, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said PM-KISAN had its share of lacuna and unlike KALIA, it did not contain provisions for the landless and farmers in distress.
The ruling NDA government though defended its scheme as historic and transformative, pledging Rs 75,000 crore in FY 2019-20 and Rs 20,000 crore in this fiscal in the revised budget estimates.
Goyal rolled out a bonanza for the often neglected middle class in Union budgets. People with taxable income of up to Rs five lakh will no longer need to shell out income tax. The previous limit was Rs 2.5 lakh. What’s more, the salaried class could be exempted from the direct tax if they succeeded in furnishing savings for an annual income of not exceeding Rs 6.5 lakh.
He unveiled in what promises to be the world’s largest pension programme. “in addition to the health coverage provided under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ and life & disability coverage provided under ‘Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana’ and ‘Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana’, our Government proposes to launch a mega pension yojana namely ‘Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan’ for the unorganised sector workers with monthly income upto Rs 15,000. This pension yojana shall provide them an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 from the age of 60 years on a monthly contribution of a small affordable amount during their working age.”
Reaffirming his government’s focus on Digital India, the finance minister vowed to establish one lakh digital villages. “The Second dimension of our Vision is to create a Digital India reaching every sector of the economy, every corner of the country and impacting the life of all Indians. Digital Infrastructure and digital economy of 2030 will be built upon the successes achieved in recent years in digitisation of Government processes and private transactions. Our youth will lead us in this endeavour with innumerable start-ups creating digital India, and millions of jobs in this eco-system”
Beginning the budget address, Goyal waxed eloquent on his government’s achievements, notably Goods & Service Tax (GST) which he termed as the biggest change in the history of independent India. Moreover, his government had broken the back of back-breaking inflation, a feat which previous governments failed to achieve.