Social justice to infra: Sitharaman outlines 5 pillars of budget | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Social justice to infra: Sitharaman outlines 5 pillars of budget

ByRajeev Jayaswal, New Delhi
Feb 02, 2024 07:02 AM IST

Social justice, as effective and necessary governance model, is “not just a slogan for us” but one of the guiding principles, the finance minister said, and referred to what the PM described as the “four major caste groups” — the poor, women, the youth and the ‘anndata’ [referring to farmers in Hindi]

Social justice as an effective model of governance, a focus on four major castes (the poor, women, the youth and farmers), a focus on infrastructure, leveraging technology for opportunity and setting up a high-powered committee on the challenges due to population — the Union interim budget rested on these five elements, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday, minutes after the unveiled the government’s plan.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents the interim budget on Thursday. (ANI)
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents the interim budget on Thursday. (ANI)

The minister cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s customary address at the start of the budget session of Parliament on Wednesday to explain that the five elements were “disha nirdeshak baten”, or directional talking points that underpin the budget announced on Thursday.

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Social justice, as effective and necessary governance model, is “not just a slogan for us” but one of the guiding principles, the minister said, and referred to what the PM described as the “four major caste groups” -- the poor, women, the youth and the ‘anndata’ [referring to farmers in Hindi].

“Third, focus [is] on infrastructure this year again. Massive increases in capex happened in the last four years. This year too, there is 11% increase,” she said referring to a very high base of 10 lakh crore in 2023-24 (BE), from where there has been about a 33% year-on-year increase to the 11.11 lakh crore announced for the 2024-25 financial year in capex allocation.

Fourth, was in the use of technology “as a huge opportunity”, she said, referring to DPI (digital public infrastructure) as “a new factor” of production. “And the last ‘disha nirdeshak baten’ is a high-powered committee for extensive consideration of challenges arising from population growth and demographic challenges,” she said.

While presenting the budget in the Parliament, Sitharaman said the government will form a high-powered committee to look at issues arising from fast population growth and demographic changes. The committee will be mandated to make recommendations for addressing these challenges comprehensively in relation to the goal of ‘Viksit Bharat’.

Based on these key guiding principles, the finance minister highlighted 12 major announcements of the interim budget. First was the 2 crore (20 million) more homes planned to be built under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana Grameen (PMAY) for rural population. “We have already completed nearly 3 crore [30 million] houses,” she said.

Second, was the plan for housing for the middle class, a plan for which the specifics are still awaited.

Third, the rooftop solar power incentive scheme that will ensure at least 300 units of free power every month for participating households. Sitharaman said the government is working on the scheme and will soon announce funding, eligibility and other parameters for generating renewable energy. She said the households can sell surplus power to the grid and can earn additional income.

The fourth key announcement was the enhanced target for ‘lakhpati didi’ [the self-help group] from 2 crore [20 million] to 3 crore [30 million] women. In her budget speech she said lakhpati didis are inspiration to others. The lakhpati didi initiative is part of government’s economic empowerment of women.

She said the fifth highlight pertained to preparing and empowering micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to grow and compete globally. In the budget speech, she said the government’s “important policy priority” is to ensure “timely and adequate finances, relevant technologies and appropriate training” for MSMEs. “Orienting the regulatory environment to facilitate their growth will be an important element of this policy mix,” she said.

She said development of the east was the sixth important announcement. “Our government will pay utmost attention to make the eastern region and its people a powerful driver of India’s growth,” she said, adding that this focus is in addition to the northeast, which will continue to get full attention of the government.

“When I say eastern region, I’m talking about Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal, making sure that they become the engines of growth for the new Amrit Kaal… towards a ‘Viksit Bharat 2047’”.

The seventh important announcement was the next generation of reforms that will be carried out by building consensus with stakeholders to “reform, perform, and transform”.

The three major rail corridors was the eighth highlight, which the minister said will build logistics efficiency and provide better passenger convenience, including safety. “For Viksit Bharat, the passengers need to move as they wish, but equally materials, raw materials, building goods, cement, rare earth minerals, [need to] move efficiently as well…”, she said.

The ninth announcement, according to the FM, is supporting urbanisation by metros and NaMo Bharat trains. “The 10th announcement which I draw your attention to is 1 lakh crore corpus for research and innovation by private sector,” she said.

The 11th is to boost tourism, including spiritual tourism. “And the 12th one is supporting reforms in states,” she said, adding that there will be a white paper on economic performance in the last 10 years, compared with the previous 10-year period.

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