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Budget for an ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat
2/23/2021 12:22:47 AM

Dr. Parveen Kumar

While replying to a debate on the first paperless budget 2021-22 in the Lok Sabha, Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman insisted that the budget is aimed at realizing the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Atma Nirbhar’ Bharat. She described the budget as the backbone of Atma Nirbhar Bharat. The budget presented amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns intends to revive the country’s economy, accelerate growth, generate employment and improve the overall fiscal environment of the country. The lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected all sectors of the economy except agriculture.
The Union minister for Finance, Government of India talked of the six pillars of health and well-being, physical and financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational India, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and R&D, and ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ on which this year’s budget rested. According to Sitharaman, the union budget is woven around three prominent themes, namely Aspirational India, Economic development and a society that cares. In fact, the farm sector has emerged as the main driver of economic growth during these difficult times.
The COVID pandemic has thrown the country into a recession and this year budget aims at spending. The budget has also given a boost to the country’s manufacturing sector and ease of doing business.
There has been an enhanced outlay and facilitation for direct and supportive infrastructure. In fact, infrastructural development in any form (roads, ports, shipping, waterways and power) contributes toward boosting the agricultural sector, especially perishable commodities as these effectively connect production areas with consumption centres. This also contributes to better integration of markets and stabilization of prices of agricultural commodities. The Budget increases expenditure on rural infrastructure by 34 percent to rupees 40, 000 crores.
There has been an increase on custom duty by 1% on refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines, a move that is largely seen as a support to local manufacturing. Seven fully integrated textile parks will be opened to bolster quality manufacturing and make India a manufacturing unicorn for textiles, an industry where the country has already an edge due to ample cotton production. All this will increase India’s spending power as well as foster these sectors where our share of export will benefit and ultimately will lead us to self reliance.
The Make in India will also get a boost as the defence expenditure in the budget has went up to rupees 4.78 lakh crores. The regulatory environment rather regulatory interference has also been taken care of in the budget. National Company Law Tribunal would now have e-courts with virtual hearings for faster debt resolution process. This will save people’s time. Income tax matters with income below rupees 50 lakhs can now be assessed only three years in the past
Agriculture in this year’s budget received Rs 131,531 crore of the total grants of Rs 34, 83, 236 crores. During lockdown, the government had already announced a slew of measures to revive the economy through several financial packages under Atma Nirbhar Bharat. The agricultural sector also received several measures to boost incomes of farmers, ensure remunerative prices for their produce and improve supply chains of essential food commodities.
The provisions in this year’s Budget are in continuation of the announcements made during the pandemic period. The Budget is expected to promote agricultural diversification towards financially worthwhile and high-value horticulture, dairy and fisheries sectors that are all the more important for consumers in a post-Covid-19 world. Towards promotion of horticultural commodities the ‘Operation Green’ scheme has been extended from TOP (tomato, onion and potato) to twenty two other perishable commodities. It was in continuation of the earlier announcement made during the lockdown when all fruits and vegetables were included under the scheme for six months. The main aim of the scheme is to protect the growers of fruits and vegetables from making distress sale. This has been extended to minimize the price risk of fruits and vegetable growers. Under this scheme, the government provides subsidy at the rate of 50% of the total cost on transportation from surplus to deficit regions, and hiring of appropriate storage facilities for the eligible crops. The budget has provisions to connect 1000 more mandis in the country under electronic National Agricultural Marketing (e-NAM). This definitely will expand the scope of e-trading through the electronic platform and ensure better prices for agricultural commodities. Currently there are around 1.68 crore farmers’ that are linked through e-NAM and this number will definitely go up with additional 1000 mandis on this electronic platform.
The fisheries sector is going to receive investments for the development of modern harbors and fish-landing centres; this will help develop modern markets for this sector. Substantial investments in the development of modern fishing harbors and fish landing centres are expected, starting with five major fishing at Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, and Petuaghat will help us to raise fish production to 200 lakh tonnes by 2022-23.
A significant population of India’s 8,100-km stretch of coastline depends on exploitable coastal and marine resources. Indian coastland has enormous potential for growth of seaweed. The Budget has also contains a financial support for establishment of a multipurpose seaweed park. Promoting seaweed production, processing and marketing will open new income and employment opportunities for the poor living along the coastline. The target for agricultural Credit has been raised to Rs 16.5 lakh crore; doubling the micro-irrigation fund to Rs 10,000 crore; and extension of the SWAMITVA scheme (for mapping of village lands with modern technology and tools) to all the states and Union territories, which will also directly and indirectly support the farm sector.
Regarding health sector, there has been an increase of about 137 per cent which will lead to medical care for all. The finance minister has also proposed rupees 35,000 crore outlay for COVID-19 vaccine for the next financial year. The total proposed budget outlay for health and well being of all is 2, 23, 846 crore compared to 94, 452 crore in the current fiscal which is about 137 per cent increase. A new centrally funded Yojana, the Prime Minister Swasthya Yojana, with an outlay of rupees 64,180 crore will strengthen and develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities in the last miles of our nation thereby ensuring last mile delivery of health services. The increased allocation to the health sector along with a plan to look at healthcare holistically including nutrition, sanitation, clean water and pollution control are definitely going to show their positive impact on the common masses in the country sooner than later.
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