Jaitley may look to win over youth, farmers in Budget

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has his task cut out. His ministry is determined to stay on the fiscal discipline path and this is one of the reasons why global rating agencies remain sanguine about the economy. Yet, the finance minister is keen to address concerns of the youth when it comes to job opportunities, social welfare schemes and doubling farm income by 2022.

If we go by the last four Budgets, they had it all for farmers, poor and the youth. This time could be no different. But with 2019 just a year away, the Opposition has started cornering the government and the common man would love to hear updates on promises the FM had made. Below are a few highlights from Jaitley's past Budget speeches.

Budget 2017-18
The last Budget day coincided with Vasant Panchami. In his opening remark, Jaitley said his government made attempts to make the economy more formal and bring transparency and objectivity in decision-making from favouritism. On demonetisation, the FM quoted Mahatma Gandhi: "A right cause never fails. "

Among the 10 basic themes, the FM's Budget revolved around farmers, rural population, the youth, the poor and the underprivileged.

Jaitley also promised to go ahead with Mission Antyodaya to pull one crore households out of the poverty line and make 50,000 gram panchayats poverty-free by 2019. He also had task of completing 1 crore houses by 2019 for the homeless and those living in kutcha houses and 100 per cent village electrification by May 1, 2018.

MGNREGS allocation was below expectations and a higher spending on this could lift overall sentiment, said Nirmal Bang Institutional Equities on the forthcoming Budget. A likely investment on skill development schemes will bear fruit in the long run, it said. Higher allocation on micro irrigation is likely, Edelweiss Securities stated.

On imparting new skills in rural areas, the FM promised mason training to 5 lakh persons by 2022, with an immediate target of training at least 20,000 persons by the year-end. For the poor, FM said his government has action plan to eliminate kala-azar and filariasis by 2017, leprosy by 2018 and measles by 2020. Elimination of tuberculosis by 2025 is also targeted. He gave special attention to affordable housing.

Budget 2016-17
In the 2016-17 Budget speech, the FM acknowledged the need to focus on drought and rural distress. A total of Rs 2.87 lakh crore was granted in aid to gram panchayats and municipalities, in line with the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, a surge of 228 per cent, compared with the previous 5 years.

The FM vowed to intervene in farm and non-farm sectors to double the income of farmers by 2022. A total of Rs 38,500 crore was allocated for MGNREGS. He promised electrification in all villages within 1,000 days. Till February 2016, a total of 5542 villages were electrified out of a total of 18,542 that were not till 2015.

To incentivise creation of new jobs in the formal sector, he announced that the Employee Pension Scheme contribution of 8.33 per cent will be borne by the government for all new employees enrolling with the EPFO for the first three years of their employment.

Besides, he spoke of launching a new health protection scheme that provides health cover up to Rs1 lakh per family. The FM proposed to set up the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with an initial capital base of Rs 1,000 crore and promised 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas over the next two years.

There was also a promise to provide LPG connection in the name of women members of poor households.

Budget 2015-16
The FM put at the centre of the narrative PM Modi's vision for 2022, the year Amrut Mahotsav and the completion of 75 years of India's independence.

According to Jaitley, rural population still forms 70 per cent of India's total pie and raising employability of the rural youth is the key to unlocking India's demographic dividend.

"To ensure that there is a senior secondary school within the 5-km reach of each child, we need to upgrade over 80,000 secondary schools and add or upgrade 75,000 junior/middle, to the senior secondary level," he had said.

Noting that two-thirds of India's population were below 35, he stressed on jobs and making India the manufacturing hub of the world. The Skill India and the Make in India programmes are aimed at achieving this, he said.

The FM announced Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana that covered both natural and accidental death risk of Rs Rs 2 lakh for a premium Rs 330 per year, or less than one rupee per day, for the age group of 18-50.

Budget 2014-15
This first Budget by the BJP government after Modi took power on May 26, 2014.

It was July 10 the same year and most market watchers were ready to give the newly-formed government benefit of doubt, given a shorter window it had post the elections.

"The country is in no mood to suffer from unemployment, inadequate basic amenities, lack of infrastructure and apathetic governance," Jaitely said.

The FM added: "It would not be wise to expect everything that can be done or must be done to be in the first Budget presented within 45 days of the formation of this government."

Jaitely laid big pitch on fiscal prudence that would lead to fiscal consolidation and discipline, saying India cannot go on spending today, "which would be financed by taxation at a future date".

Jaitely touched on schemes such as Skill India, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.

A target of Rs 8 lakh crore was set for agriculture credit for 2014-15.

On education, Jaitley allocated Rs 28,635 crore funds for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rs 4,966 crore for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. He announced seting up of five IIMs in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. He proposed to allocate Rs 4,000 crore for the NHB with a view to increasing the flow of cheaper credit for affordable housing to the urban poor/EWS/LIG segment.

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