Sunday, March 7, 2021

Farmers, villages at heart of budget: PM

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New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday described the Union Budget 2021-22 as “not just active but proactive” , and stressed that villages and farmers were “at its heart”.

In a televised address shortly after Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget in Parliament, the PM said the Budget will enhance ease of living for the common man by simplifying procedure and rules and bring positive changes for individuals, investors, industry and infrastructure sector.

“The budget has the vision of self-reliance and features every section of the society,” Modi said.

The principles behind the budget, he said, included expansion of new opportunities for growth, opportunities for the youth, giving a new dimension to human resources, infrastructure development; and helping new sectors grow.

“This budget has a special focus on strengthening the agriculture sector and boosting farmers’ income. Villages and farmers are at its heart,” he said.

The PM had earlier said the Union Budget should be seen in continuation of the four to five “mini budgets”, or the over 20 lakh crore economic packages, announced by the finance minister in 2020.

At a time when a section of farmers are agitating against the recently announced farm bills that they allege are anti-farmers and will only benefit corporates, the PM offered reassurance that the budget focuses on increasing farmers’ income. He said farmers will be able to get loans easily, and the new laws will allow for the strengthening of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMCs) with the help of the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund.

Modi further said that the government, while keeping in with fiscal sustainability, stressed on increasing the budget size, and did not put pressure on the citizens.

On the provisions in the budget for the development needs of southern states, the North-east states, and Ladakh, he said these aspects will play a key role particularly in turning the coastal states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal into “business powerhouses”. All three states go to the polls in the first half of 2021, along with Assam and the Union territory of Puducherry.

During the budget speech, the finance minister said national highway projects of 8,500km will be awarded by March 2022, and an additional 11,000km of National Highway Corridor will be completed. She announced new road and rail projects for Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and West Bengal.

Referring to the government’s Covid response Modi said, it was not reactive but proactive, and that the budget, too, doesn’t have a reactive approach. “We have gone beyond active and have given a proactive budget”, he said.

While the Prime Minister said the “positive early response” to the budget — the Sensex, for example, rose 5% — is indicative of the government giving proper attentions to its responsibility towards fiscal sustainability, while increasing the size of the budget.

Opposition parties, however, slammed the budget.

“Forget putting cash in the hands of people, the Modi government plans to handover India’s assets to his crony capitalist friends,” Congress MP and former party president Rahul Gandhi said.

Addressing the media former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the budget was a “let-down” and the increase in cess on petrol and diesel were a cruel act on poor and farmers. He said it was a vengeful act against the thousands of farmers who took out the largest tractor rally in history. “It is also a cruel blow to federalism because states do not get a share in the revenue from cesses,” he said.

The MSMEs were dismissed in a sentence and the intent of this government is clear – let the PSBs bleed slowly so they can all be privatised in short term he went on to add.

Congress MPs Jasbir Singh Gill and Gurjeet Singh Aujla wore wearing gowns to Parliament on Monday as a mark of protest over the farm laws.

The BJP’s former ally the Shiromani Akali Dal staged a walkout while the budget was being presented. SAD MP, Harsimrat Badal, who is also a former food supplies minister in the Modi Cabinet, termed it “unfortunate” that the government not thinking of the farmers sitting in protests on their doorstep on the outskirts of the Capital.

Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal, whose Rashtriya Loktantrik Party also broke away from the National Democratic Alliance over the farm laws, also staged a walkout.

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