A Budget of Aspirations
The first Budget of this decade comes at a time when our nation is commemorating the 75th year of Indian independence, 60 years of Goa’s accession to India, 50 years of 1971 India- Pakistan War, Eighth census of Independent India (also the first digital census), India’s turn at the BRICS Presidency, Chandrayaan-3 Mission and celebration of Haridwar Maha Kumbh
The first Budget of this decade comes at a time when our nation is commemorating the 75th year of Indian independence, 60 years of Goa's accession to India, 50 years of 1971 India- Pakistan War, Eighth census of Independent India (also the first digital census), India's turn at the BRICS Presidency, Chandrayaan-3 Mission and celebration of Haridwar Maha Kumbh. Under this scenario in the post Covid era, India has a vital role to play as an Asian economy in the new economic order.
The Union Budget 2021-22 along with the mini-budgets, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and the AatmaNirbhar Bharat packages, presented by the Finance Minister to stabilise the economy during the critical pandemic period has prepared our country in the right direction. Under the guidance of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Budget addresses the imperative of resetting of priorities and identifies the emergence of opportunities by devoting an "all-inclusive budget" as a guide to "self-reliant India".
The development of any nation depends on the transportation networks and the ways in which they are being maintained. The same holds true for the development of a huge and populous nation like India. One of the most crucial announcements was with regard to infrastructure development projects across various States and union territories. For connecting the areas and maintaining smooth flow of traffic, the construction of new and developed roads are a must. The infrastructure projects are not just connectivity specific, like the proposed highway works and up-gradation of existing 675- km long Kolkata-Siliguri highway across the state of West Bengal, but are also employment opportunities generators.
Further, as the Union Territories receive 100 per cent funding from the central government long stalled projects are being revived and new welfare projects are being implemented. Also, the Union Budget has provisioned `30,757 crore for Jammu and Kashmir, the highest among the Union Territories. The announcement of maiden gas pipeline in Jammu and Kashmir has further rekindled hopes for the revival of the project which due to paucity of fund and lack of administrative push showed no progress for a decade. This gas pipeline project will create base for increased beneficiary coverage under the Ujjwala Yojana as well as decrease carbon footprints by increasing utilisation of clean fuel for cooking purpose.
This connectivity upgradation also envisions the development of modern fishing harbours and fish landing centres along the banks of rivers and waterways. The government has provisioned to develop five major fishing harbours – Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, and Petuaghat –as hubs of economic activity. The development of fishing harbours would help in exploitation of rich fishing grounds, create adequate infrastructure facilities for operation of mechanised fishing vessels, mitigate navigation hazards, save fishermen life and fishing vessels from the rough sea, handle fish and crustacean in hygienic conditions, thereby enhance the export earnings.
The first-ever paperless Budget 2021 deliberated on the sharp focus on boosting the Start-up ecosystem in the country, with the objective of encouraging economic activity and fostering growth. It is imperative to note here that recently 11 Indian start-ups managed to bag the unicorn tag in a pandemic year as they crossed the 1 billion valuation mark. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji while congratulating the nation on this achievement underscored that the start-ups are changing the demographic characteristics of today's business. Further, start-ups played a major role in ensuring availability of sanitisers, PPE kits and related supply chains, played a sterling role in meeting local needs like grocery, medicine delivery at doorstep, transportation of frontline workers and online study material.
Thus, appreciated their spirit of finding opportunity in adversity, the Budget provided further boost to start-up investments in the country by extending the eligibility for claiming tax holidays for start-ups along with the capital gains exemption for investment in start-ups till March 31, 2022 to incentivise funding. This will encourage many start-ups to engaged and explore more sectors of growth such as harnessing clean energy and power infrastructure maintenance, use artificial intelligence to promote the efficient use of energy and reducing the cost of the consumers.
Shri Narendra Modi ji ushered in a wave of behavioural change among the people with the launch of 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan'. The pandemic made 'Swachhta' an integral lifestyle practice and increased community participation to further the achievement of key government initiatives, especially in urban areas. For further Swachhta of urban India, the government in its budget outlay increased focus on complete faecal sludge management and waste water treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastic, reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction-and-demolition activities and bio-remediation of all legacy dump sites. The Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 is being implemented with a total financial allocation of `1,41,678 crores over a period of five years from 2021-2026.
Amidst a global pandemic, India's overall allocation for health and well-being increased by 137 per cent in the financial year 2021-22, thus boosting capacity of health-care system to detect and cure new and emerging disease in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard the government while underscoring the importance of strengthening the healthcare infrastructure launched PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana with an outlay of about `64,180 crore over 6 year. The scheme will concentrate on bridging the heath infrastructure gaps at the village, block and panchayat level and integrate them with the centralised healthcare facilities.
Today India has indigenously manufactured vaccine and has begun medically safeguarding not only her own citizens against Covid-19, but also those of 100 or more countries under its Vaccine Maitri outreach. Our nation has strengthened its ethos of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' while turning a crisis into an opportunity of being 'self-reliance' and also presented a Budget with an eye on future growth trajectory.
(The author is National General Secretary, Bharatiya Janata Party)