By Mayank Jain:
You know that either the situation of the country is bad or the government is overwhelmed by expectations when the budget speech starts with the Finance Minister warning, “It is not wise to expect anything from the new government’s budget”. The budget of 2014 was the apple of everyone’s eyes for a long time. People heaved and sighed at the thought of the financial statement that was expected to reveal the era of development that even the world hasn’t seen before, forget India.
The budget of 2014-2015 has finally arrived and the jibes at the FM in the Parliament during the speech itself clearly indicated that not every section is pleased with the appropriations and government’s plans for the financial future of this country.
Dubbed the budget of hope, the annual statement of receipts and expenditures for the country has hit it off very well at some places while for many others, it leaves a lot to be desired. The appropriations appear to be arbitrary while the intentions appear much more polished and streamlined this time than the previous few budgets which have been the epitome of populism.
Newer initiatives by the government stand out in a stark contrast from the highly uncreative strategies that were being doled out to us in the name of financial plans in the UPA budgets. The budget of 2014-2015 can be rightly called a fix to problems more than an innovation exercise as government has stuck to basics as it attempts to curb inflation and keep unchecked privatization in control.
This post is about the positives which emerged from the pandora’s box that Jaitley opened with much enthusiasm. Let’s walk through the 10 hits of the Modi government’s budget:
1. Spearheaded focus on education:
Almost half of the children of the country don’t get to go to pre primary schools as the enrolment ratio for both males and females hover around a measly 53% and the need for educational reforms in this scenario can hardly be overemphasized.
The allocation of 28635 crores for Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA) and 4966 crore for Rashtriya Madhyamic Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is a step in the right direction. To beef up the quality of higher education, the government has also announced 5 new IITs and IIMs each. The process of procuring loans for higher education will be relaxed too.
Â 2. Community Representation
One of the surprising parts in the budget was Arun Jaitley’s focus on empowering communities which are yet unrepresented and some allocations in the same direction were more than welcome.
One such appropriation was a grant of 100 crores to strengthen and build up new community radio stations in the country and take the total tally to 600 of them. Community radios play a big role in helping the members of communities deep in the interiors of the country maintain contact and report on issues that the mainstream narrative rarely picks up if not for these radios.
A programme for the up gradation of skills and training in ancestral arts for development for the minorities by the name of “Up gradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods” will also be launched that will provide the right impetus for the minorities to come out in the open and showcase their rich legacy.
3. Unleashing the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Mr. Jaitley demonstrated his own risk taking abilities when he threw open his pockets for the entrepreneurial development of the country. He has apportioned a substantial amount for the government to work on building entrepreneur culture in the country and power the enterprises which come down due to lack of funds.
A mega fund with a corpus of 10,000 crores for providing equity through venture capital funds, quasi equity, soft loans and other risk capital specially to encourage new start-ups by youth will prove to be a game changer for the Indian start-up scene which had been long ignored for a long time now.
4. Gender Sensitization and Crisis Response Centers
Probably the best thing government could do in this budget was announce gender sensitivity education measures. Funds have finally been allocated to the gender sensitivity program where curriculum will include a chapter on the gender differences and sensitivity across schools and colleges.
At the same time, Crises Management Centers have also been announced across all districts of Delhi, the national capital. A sum of 100 crores will also be provided for “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana”, a focused scheme to generate awareness and help in improving the efficiency of delivery of welfare services meant for women.
5. FDI In Defense
India has been the world’s top arms buyer for the past three years and reforms in defense were much needed. The finance cum defense minister finally heard the plea of armed forces and took steps to increase the spending and also focused on indigenous manufacturing of arms.
The foreign direct investment cap has been raised to 49% from the previous 26% so that the country can benefit from the global interests and at the same time, innovate with new technologies which are not only cutting edge but critical to our security. The defense spending has been boosted by 14% in this budget over past year and the total is set at 2.29 trillion Indian rupees.
6. Bag of goodies
Apart from the bigger initiatives like the ones above, finance minister appeared to be very keen on giving boost to other sectors and communities and his appropriations clearly reflect that.
While use of Braille on the currency notes to aid visually impaired people is one of a kind move that nobody thought of, solar power run agricultural pumps are another one of his best offerings to the country which will help save money and energy. The FDI in insurance sector has also been boosted to 49% from the previous 26% and the returns of which are soon expected to follow.
Keen on raising a generation of sport stars, relevant appropriations have been made to Jammu and Kashmir for developing and upgrading their stadiums. National academies will also be set up to train youth for the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian games.
The inevitable also happened and the excise duty on cigarettes and tobacco products has been raised while the cap of exemption on income tax has been extended by 50,000 Indian rupees.
Going forward, the budget is far from historic but away from being labeled a blunder either. The government has just begun and it shouldn’t find it too hard to correct the course of this country if they stick to their plans and not let government take place of governance.