India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Image Credit: Twitter/ANI

New Delhi: After meeting President Ram Nath Kovind, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her deputy, Ministry of State Anurag Thakur, arrived in Parliament to attend a meeting of Cabinet ministers ahead of the presentation of the Union Budget.

The Union Budget 2020 is now being presented.

On January 31, the Economic Survey 2020 was tabled before the Parliament as is customary the day before the presentation of the Budget. The survey stated that GDP would grow at 5 percent this year and is expected to grow at 6 - 6.5 percent over the next financial year.

The Budget speech starts with an address to the speaker of Lok Sabha. Usually, the duration of the presentation ranges from 90 to 120 minutes.

In her speech, Sitharaman said: "Our people should be gainfully employed, our businesses should be healthy; for all minorities, women and people from SCs and STs, this Budget aims to fulfill their aspirations."

"I pay homage to visionary leader Late Arun Jaitley, the chief architect of Goods and Services Tax. GST has been the most historic of the structural reforms. GST has been gradually maturing into a tax that has integrated the country economically," she added.

She went on to say: "GST has resulted in efficiency gains in the transport and logistics sector, inspector raj has vanished, it has benefitted Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises(MSME). Consumers have got an annual benefit of 1 lakh crore rupees by GST."

"Central government's debt has come down to 48.7 per cent in March 2019 from 52.2 per cent in March 2014."

"This budget is woven around three prominent themes, aspirational India, in which all sections of society seek better standards of living, economic development for all, indicated in Prime Minister's exhortation 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas', and lastly, ours shall be a caring society," Sitharaman said during the presentation of the Budget.

She further said that the digital revolution will play a big role in delivering services to the people in India in the coming days.

"The digital revolution, which has placed India in a unique leadership position, globally will see the next wave. We shall aim to achieve seamless delivery of services through digital governance," Sitharaman said.

The minister was quick to credit the efforts and energy of young people for the growth the country is seeing.

Sitharaman followed the tradition of reciting poetry and couplets with a Kashmiri verse, outlining the inclusiveness of the country.

She translated the verse to Hindi during her speech.

"Humara watan khilte hue Shalimar bagh jaise, humara watan Dal lake mein khilte hue kamal jaisa, nau jawanon ke garam khoon jaisa, mera watan tera watan, humara watan, duniya ka sabse pyara watan (Our nation is like a blooming Shalimar Bagh, our nation is like a lotus blooming in Dal lake, like the hot blood of younger generation, my nation, your nation, our nation, world's most beautiful nation)."

The choice of a Kashmiri verse is significant after the government's landmark move of abrogating Article 370 which gave a special status to the region of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Finance Minister while stressing that the Budget 2020 is to boost the income of people and enhance their purchasing power, said: "Farm markets need to be liberalized, farming need to be made more competitive, handholding of farm-based activities need to be provided, sustainable cropping patterns and more tech needed."

She also said that the Centre will encourage state governments to implement following model laws - Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act of 2016, Model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act of 2017 and Model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services Promotion and Facilitation Act of 2018.

Sitharaman spoke of an initiative that would help farmers set up solar pumps. She said: "Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha avem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) to be expanded to provide 20 lakh farmers in setting up standalone solar pumps."

"To build a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables, Indian Railways will set up Kisan Rail through PPP model so that perishable goods can be transported quickly. Krishi Udaan will be launched by MoCA on international and national routes," she added.

Sitharaman says: "For sector comprising agriculture, allied activities, irrigation and rural development, an allocation of Rs2.83 lakh crores (Rs2.83 trillion) has been made for 2020-21."

"My Budget 2020 is woven around three themes- aspirational India to boost the standard of living; economic development for all; and building a humane and compassionate society," she stressed.

Sitharaman said that Rs 3.6 lakh crore have been approved for Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) which seeks to provide Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household by 2024.

Presenting the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said, "Rs12,300 crore have been approved to Swachh Bharat mission for 2020-21."

She further said that the central government was committed to ODF plus in order to sustain ODF (open defecation free) behaviour to ensure that no one is left behind.

The Union Minister said steps will also be taken for proper solid waste management.

Referring to Jal Jeevan Mission, she said measures were also being taken to recharge water sources, desalination and water harvesting.

"There is a shortage of qualified medical doctors both general practitioners and specialists; it is proposed to attach a medical college to a district hospital in PPP mode; details of the scheme to be worked out soon," she added.

Sitharaman added: "We propose Rs99300 crores (Rs993 billion) for education sector in 2020-21 and Rs3,000 crores (Rs 30 billion) for skill development."

A viability gap funding window to be set up to cover hospitals, with priority given to aspirational districts that don't have hospitals empanelled under Ayushman Bharat scheme, she added.

Entrepreneurship is the strength of India. I propose to set up an investment clearance cell that will provided end to end facilitation and support including pre-investment advisory, info on land banks and facilitate clearance at state level, she said.

The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is to be completed by 2023, said Sitharaman.

Sitharaman says: "100 more airports to be developed by 2024 to support Udaan scheme."

Sitharaman on Saturday said IND-SAT exam will be held for Asian and African students for scholarships to 'Study in India'.

"IND-SAT exam will be held for Asian and African students for scholarships to 'Study in India'," said Sitharaman during the presentation of the Budget.

Stating that the government will soon announce a new education policy, she said: "Now, degrees can be taken online soon and will be offered by the top 100 National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) ranked institutes."

She said 150 higher institutes will start apprentice training for 'general category students' and that a 'national police university' and a 'national forensic science university' were proposed to be set up.

"I propose to provide Rs2,500 crores for promotion of tourism in the year 2020-21," she added. "85,000 crore rupees for Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes in 2020-21; 53,700 crore rupees for Scheduled Tribes," she said.

Fibre-to-home through BharatNet will link one lakh gram panchayats in the financial year 2020-21, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday while presenting the Union Budget.

A sum of Rs 6,000 crore has been allocated for it, she said. The initiative will improve the digital delivery of services.

"The government seeks to catalyse digital delivery of services for the rural poor in sectors such as health, education, livelihood, skills, e-agriculture and e-commerce using BharatNet infrastructure," said Sitharaman.

Non-Resident Indians will be allowed to buy Indian Government bonds for the first time.

New income tax rules

We propose to bring a personal income tax regime, where income tax rates will be reduced, so now, person earning between Rs 5-7.5 lakhs (Rs500,000-Rs700,000) will be required to pay tax at 10 per cent against current 20 per cent, she added. Those with income between Rs 10-12.5 lakhs (Rs1 million- 1.25 million) can pay tax at 20 per cent against 30 per cent. "And 70 of more than 100 income tax deductions and exemptions have been removed, in order to simplify tax system and lower tax rates," she added.