Govt reaches out to powerful agrarian votebanks of UP, Punjab via Budget

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New Delhi: With polling in high-stake Assembly elections just three days away, finance minister Arun Jaitley has reached out to farmers, the backward classes and small traders in a big way through his Union Budget.

Keeping his focus on the huge backward class vote bank in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, Mr Jaitley announced over 30 per cent increase in Budget outlay for the welfare of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

As per the 2011 Census, Uttar Pradesh has the largest chunk of the total SC population, while Punjab has the largest share of dalits. Aware that demonetisation has dealt a severe blow to the agriculture sector as it came during the kharif harvest and the start of rabi sowing, the finance minister announced a total allocation of Rs 1,87,223 crore for rural, agricultural and allied sectors for 2017-18.

With the promise of doubling farmers’ income in five years, he has set aside Rs 10 lakh crore for loans to farmers, increased the allocation for Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to Rs 13,240 crore, set a target of 10 lakh farm ponds till March, 2017, under MGNREGA and doubled the pace of road construction, among other things.

He has also announced a massive 25 per cent hike in the MNREGA budget. If the majority of Uttar Pradesh’s population depends on farming activities, Punjab’s agriculture sector remains the largest contributor to the state’s GDP.

Also, to soothe frayed nerves of others hit by demonetisation, Mr Jaitley has provided tax relief to the middle class and the Sangh’s core vote bank – micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

Realty stocks get big boost
Realty stocks surged up to 20 per cent on Wednesday after the government announced infrastructure status to affordable housing to encourage investment in the segment and offered tax sops for developers sitting on completed unsold inventories.

Shares of DLF zoomed 6.74 per cent, Godrej Properties surged 5.13 per cent, HDIL jumped 5.8 per cent, Oberoi Realty (6.38 per cent) and Prestige Estates Projects (5.61 per cent) on the exchange.

National testing agency for education
In a big revamp of the education system in India, finance minister Arun Jaitley has proposed to set up a National Testing Agency to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions. It will be an autonomous and self-sustained testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions and would free the CBSE, AICTE and other premier institutions of conducting exams.

Two new AIIMS, 350 e-courses
The government has announced setting up of two new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the states of Gujarat and Jharkhand. These hospitals will be set up under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Surak-sha Yojana (PMSSY).

Giving a boost to distance education, the government will offer 350 online courses under the SWAYAM platform to enable students to virtually attend courses taught by the best faculty and access high quality reading resources while participating in discussion, take tests and earn academic grades.

Union Budget 2017-18
Costlier

Cigarettes
Pan masala
Cigars
Mobile phones
Chewing tobacco
LED lamp parts
Aluminium ores, concentrates

Cheaper

Booking railway tickets online
LNG
POS machines
Group insurance for defence services
Fuel cells
Extracts in leather products

An analysis of the positives and the negatives of the country’s economy

Strengths: Double-digit inflation has been controlled, revival steps made towards growth, continuing efforts against black money
Weaknesses: A stunning dearth of taxpaying individuals, job creation remains a concern, a manufacturing sector that’s still anaemic
Opportunities: GST to bring in further tax clarity, demonetisation for banks meant fund influx and digital focus supports transparency
Threats: Donald Trump, the rise of protectionism worldwide and the uncertainty around commodity prices, especially oil

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