Budget 2021: Fin Min announces huge infrastructure development for election-approaching states

In a first, the Union Finance Minister broke away from old tradition as she presented the Union Budget using a digital tablet instead of paper, making it the first paperless budget
Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman met President Ram Nath Kovind ahead of the Budget Session in New Delhi
Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman met President Ram Nath Kovind ahead of the Budget Session in New Delhi@rashtrapatibhvn

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made several announcements in regards to the agriculture sector. Considering the current conflict between the Central Government and protesting farmers at the Delhi border, Sitharaman announced that the government has raised the agriculture credit target to Rs 16.5 Lakh Crore in 2021-22 and Rs 75,100 Crore has been allotted to farmers of the country.

She added that the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) has undergone a change to assure price that at least 1.5 times the production cost across all commodities. “Around 43.36 lakh wheat-growing farmers benefited from the Centre procurement under MSP,” she said, adding that 1,000 more mandis will integrate with the electronic national market.

Sitharaman made big announcements when it came to infrastructure. The central government has set aside funds for proposed roads projects in Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, and Tamil Nadu. The government has allotted Rs 65,000 crore for road and highways works in Kerala, Rs 25,000 crore worth road works in West Bengal and Rs 3,400 crore for Assam. The government has also proposed 3,500 km corridor in Tamil Nadu. It is important to note that these four states have Assembly elections coming up in the next few months.

She said that pensioners above 75 years are exempted from filing Income Tax (IT) returns while presenting the Union Budget 2021 in the Parliament on Monday. “In the 75th year of India’s independence, we shall reduce the compliance burden on senior citizens who are 75 years of age. For senior citizens who only have a pension and interest income, I propose exemption of filing of income tax returns,” Sitharaman announced.

In her speech, Sitharaman said that the number of IT return filers has increased from 3.31 crore in 2014 to 6.48 crore in 2020. The limit for the reopening of assessment has reduced from 6 years to 3 years. However, she said there are no changes in the IT slabs, IT exemptions, and Covid cess this year. The government also decided that serious tax offences of concealment of income of over Rs 50 lakh could be reopened even after 10 years. The Finance Minister mentioned that exemption from tax audit limit doubled to Rs 10 crore turnovers for companies doing their business through online and digital platforms.

The Union Finance Minister said that the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in insurance increased from 49% to 74%. “In 2021-22, the government would bring the initial public offering (IPO) of LIC for which I am bringing the necessary amendments in this session itself,” Sitharaman said.

According to the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, the States will receive 41% share of the taxes, Sitharaman said, adding that the government has accepted the recommendations.

Sitharaman said that a new centrally sponsored scheme — PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana — would be launched with an outlay of Rs 64,180 Crore over six years. This scheme will include support for health and wellness centres, critical care hospital blocks, strengthening of National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), and setting up of integrated public health labs in all districts.

During the Budget speech, the government announced the launch of One Nation, One Ration Card scheme. The beneficiaries of this scheme can buy rations from anywhere in the country. The Finance Minister pointed out that guest workers will benefit from this scheme, and 32 States and Union Territories will implement this scheme.

The government also launched the Comprehensive National Hydrogen Energy Mission to help generate hydrogen from green sources. Sitharaman also announced that the government has decided to expand the Ujjwala Scheme to one crore more beneficiaries with the government planning to add 100 more districts in the next three years. The government also announced that a gas pipeline project would come up in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sitharaman mentioned that Rs 110,055 Crore would be allocated to the Indian Railways. Out of this, Rs 107,100 Crore has been reserved as capital expenditure for 2021-22. The Finance Minister also added that rural infrastructure allocation has increased from Rs 30,000 Crore to Rs 40,000 Crore in the financial year 2021.

The Finance Minister also announced that Rs 35,000 Crore has been sanctioned for Covid-19 vaccine for 2021-22. “I am committed to providing more funds for Covid-19 vaccine if required. The total outlay for healthcare is Rs 2.23 Lakh Crore in 2021-22 as against the budget estimate of Rs 94,452 Crore and it marks an increase of 137%,” Sitharaman said.

The government has allotted Rs 3,726 Crore for the upcoming national census and the process will be completely digital. Sitharaman proposed to launch a portal to collect information of gig workers, construction workers and guest labourers. “It will help formulate health, skill, and housing data for insurance credit and schemes for guest workers,” she said.

The Finance Minister also announced that the Centre is granting Rs 300 Crore to Goa as the state is celebrating 50 years of independence from the Portuguese.

The NationWide