It's budget day! While we can't comment on whether India's economic situation is changing for the better or not, our first woman finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, delivered her maiden budget speech.
On this podcast we discuss the budget – what is cheaper and what will burn a hole through our pockets?
Click on the player to listen to the podcast.
Let's start with something that is going to hit us where it hurts - our wallets. What is getting expensive?
Petrol and diesel – now you have to pay Rs 2 extra on every litre. Cigarettes, hookah and chewing tobacco will also be more expensive. Gold now has a 12.5% import duty, previously it was 10.
Fully imported cars, auto parts, split air-conditioners, loudspeakers, digital camera, and imported books will all be more expensive. So will CCTV cameras, newsprint and paper for newspaper and magazines, to name a few.
But set top boxes, camera modules and mobile phone chargers will become less expensive.
Next up is “Gaon, Garib and Kisan” which is supposed to be the focus of the budget:
- First, every single rural family except those unwilling to get access will “have electricity by 2022”.
- Second, the second phase of PMAY for 2019-20 will see construction of 1.95 crore houses. Sitharaman said the 1.5 crore rural home was completed under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana in the last five years.
- Third, nearly 1,25,000 km of roads will be upgraded under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana at an estimated cost of nearly Rs 80,200 crore.
- Fourth, the government will set up 100 clusters to promote bamboo, honey and khadi in FY20.
- Fifth, Sitharaman claimed that 5.6 lakh villages have now become open defecation-free right now and by 2 October 2019, India will become open defecation free.
Next, Sitharaman highlighted the focus on zero budget farming, a set of farming methods that involve zero credit for agriculture and no use of chemical fertilisers.
The current debts on the farmers are primarily from expenses for fertilisers, seeds, farm machineries, etc, she said, and zero budget farming is about cutting down those expenses.
Next, she said the government will set up 100 clusters to promote bamboo, honey and khadi in FY20.
There has been a lot of farmer suicides and protests in the last term of this government over farm debts and naturally one of the expectations from this budget was something that could provide some relief.
Also Read: Highlights of Union Budget 2019-20
Now let's talk about what this budget has for women. Does it have enough focus on gender equality since India ranks 108th in that department in the world?
It does focus on gender equality. This part of Sitharaman's budget speech got the loudest applause.
- Sitharaman announced interest subvention scheme for women self help groups in all districts.
- Every woman SHG member having a verified Jan Dhan account will get an overdraft facility of Rs 5,000.
- There was also an announcement of a Rs 1,00,000 loan for one women in every self-help group under the Mudra scheme.
- She also talked about women-led initiatives rather than just women-focused schemes. Sounds encouraging, isn't it?
There were also some big announcements about Aadhaar in this budget.
NRIs with a valid passport will now be eligible for an Aadhaar number issued by the UIDAI and they don't need to wait for 182 days.
Sitharaman also proposed that Aadhaar and PAN be used interchangeably for filing tax returns. Those who don't have PAN card can use their Aadhaar cards, and those who only have a PAN will have to link it to Aadhaar.
Some other highlights are 2% TDS on cash withdrawal exceeding Rs 1 crore in a year from a bank account. The defence spending has been increased from Rs 2.85 lakh crore to Rs 3.05 lakh crore. India will inject Rs 70,000 crore into State-run banks.
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