Presenting India’s first paperless Union Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has packaged reaching out with restrictions of fiscal prudence be it pushing the development plan with goodies in poll-bound states or firming the messaging to rural India in the backdrop of the ongoing farmers’ protest against the government for more than two months.
Opposition parties, however, slammed the Union Budget as “100 percent visionless” even as the BJP hailed the Budget as an exercise in accordance with the expectation of public welfare, inclusivity and ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India).
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this Budget has a special focus on strengthening the agriculture sector and boosting farmers’ income and “villages and farmers are at its heart,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the government plans to hand over India’s assets to crony capitalists.
“We have taken the approach of widening new opportunities for growth, creation of new opportunities for our youth, giving a new dimension to human resources, developing new sectors for infrastructure development, and moving towards technology and bringing new reforms in this Budget,” Modi said.
While the ruling party insisted that the Budget has taken care of every class including farmers, middle class, poor and women, the Opposition said the poor, the farmers and the marginalized were ignored and the Budget was pro-rich.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, who has repeatedly, during the farmer agitation, projected himself as ‘son of a farmer’ insisted that several new policies and programmes to support India’s farmers, agriculture, infrastructure and reinvigoration of human resource have also been announced in the Budget.
The Budget, which laid emphasis on public spending on rural segments, public distribution, transport, and health, however, by and large, seems to have reached out to all sections, whose support is crucial to the ruling dispensation. It has also sought to give an edge to ‘Atma Nirbhar’ pitch of the government.
Reaching out to youths, a core constituency of Narendra Modi-led BJP, which had voted overwhelmingly for him in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Union Budget mooted amendment to the Apprenticeship Act and realign the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme for a post-education apprenticeship, training of graduates and diploma holders in engineering.
While the Budget proposed to come up with a special scheme providing Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of tea workers in two poll-bound states – Assam and West Bengal, the highlight of the measures announced for states going to polls was the announcement major road infrastructure projects including a 3,500 km National Highway work in the state of Tamil Nadu at an investment of Rs 1.03 lakh crore, 1,100 km of National Highway work in Kerala at an investment of Rs 65,000 crore, 675 km of highway work in the state of West Bengal at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore and road work of 1,300 kms worth of more than Rs 34,000 crore in Assam in the coming three years.