In Arun Jaitley's Union Budget, A Strong Focus On Farmer And Rural Welfare

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents Budget 2016 in Parliament

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled a budget for farmers and the poor on Monday, announcing a string of farm measures, rural aid and health programmes in a strategy shift aimed at boosting the ruling BJP's prospects in crucial state elections to be held soon.

Presenting his third budget, Mr Jaitley described India as a bright spot in a gloomy global landscape but said the government wanted to ensure that the benefits of growth are more widely shared. He pledged to "spend prudently and wisely for the people, especially for the poor and downtrodden."

At the outset of his speech he outlined what he said were the nine pillars on which the government would base its "transformative agenda" for the economy in the coming year, first among them agriculture and farmers' welfare. Mr Jaitley said the key areas of policy focus would be farming, social reforms, infrastructure and recapitalising the banking system.

"We need to give back to our farmers. We need to think beyond food security to income security. will double income of farmers by 2022." He has allocated Rs. 35,984 crore for farmers' welfare.

The minister has announced a 228% jump in funds for rural transformation, allocating Rs. 38,500 Crores for MNREGA, a rural employment scheme that was a flagship of the previous Congress-led UPA government.

Among major announcements was one for LPG connections for poor women, which he said would benefit 1.5 crore households this year.

The Finance Minister began with a verse and a note that he is presenting the Union Budget at a time when the global economy is in serious crisis, emphasising that "India has held its ground firmly" in tough times. 

"We inherited an economy of slow growth, high inflation and low faith in government...amidst global headwinds, the Indian economy has held its own," said Mr Jaitley, often reading his speech while seated. Beside him is Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has described the Union Budget as an examination in which "125 crore Indians are going to test me."

Today's spending package marks a radical shift in strategy for the Modi government. In its first two years in power, it splurged on roads and railways at the expense of welfare programmes in the hope of creating economic stimulus. The PM's gamble was that infrastructure investment would eventually generate dividends for the poor and the rural community.

But rising rural distress after back-to-back droughts and the recent election defeat in Bihar, a largely agricultural state, have upset that calculus. The BJP calculates that the opposition successfully attacked the government as a "suit boot ki sarkar (government for the rich)."

Mr Jaitley said today that his three priorities would be strengthening India's firewalls by ensuring macroeconomic stability and prudent fiscal management; driving growth through domestic demand; and reforms to boost economic opportunity
Source - NDTV

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