18 February 2021
Featured image source: Moneycontrol
The budget 2021 was definitely one of the most closely followed budget sessions. All eyes were on the Hon’ble financial minister Nirmala Sitharaman to announce some relief after a particularly tumultuous 2020. The budget did grab some eyeballs for being the first-ever paperless budget, so to speak, in line with the recent Digital India push, as well as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. There was also a union budget app that was released, which contained all 14 documents that were presented to the MPs during the budget session, enabling us to follow the budget session much better than before.
While these efforts are appreciated, let’s get into the substance of the budget 2021, and break down what measures were taken to remedy the ill effects of the pandemic targeted to us, the citizens.
There were some calls for tax reliefs for the individual taxpayer, but, unfortunately, that was not a part of budget 2021. Since India functions on a progressive tax system, i.e, the more income earned, the higher the tax rate, tax relief would not have really solved the issue for the unemployed or those who had salary reduction due to the pandemic.
We felt the need to include this, as there were many calls for tax relief from the general public. There were some changes in Income tax, however, such as an INR 2.5 Lakh limit on the tax-free interest on EPFs, pre-filled ITR forms, and a relief for senior citizens from filing an ITR, provided their income consists solely of pension and interest.
One of the main blowbacks of the pandemic, economically speaking, was the sheer number of people who were forced into unemployment, even from reputed organizations. This was a highly anticipated topic in our union budget, as the hon’ble FM announced over 1.4 Lakh jobs in various departments of the Central Government to be filled in a month, by March 2021. However, it is crucial to note that a small percentage of these jobs were available since March 2019.
The Pradhan Mantri Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharath Yojana has been launched to develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare over the period of next six years, along with Jal Jeevan Mission Urban (aimed at an improved quality of water supply across the nation). It is important to note that these schemes run parallel to the pre-existing National Health Mission, and would be allocated a fund of INR 64,180 crore.
The education sector also saw a significant influx of funds, as the Hon’ble FM announced 100 new Sainik Schools (schools for children of people in the military), along with 750 Ekalavya schools (schools set up in tribal areas, where a lack of opportunities is prominent). Ladakh is also seeing a new Central University, ensuring more opportunities for its inhabitants.
A new scrapping policy has been announced in the budget, in an attempt to optimize the carbon footprint and give the automobile industry a much-needed boost. According to this policy, all vehicles must submit to a fitness test at regular intervals – 20 years for private vehicles, and 15 for commercial. The construction of new roads has been announced in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Assam. There has also been a push for metro services in 27 tier two cities, and further allocations for Chennai, Kochi, Bengaluru, Nashik, and Nagpur.
The power sector also saw a significant influx of funds, with an aim to achieve a “revamped, result link power distribution scheme”. There has also been a push towards including an additional 1 crore people in the Ujjawala scheme, providing subsidies for LPG connections leading to a grand total of 13 crore people.
There were several other notable topics discussed in the budget 2021 session, most of them being policies to strategically disinvest select partly-government owned companies, an increase in the FDI limit for the insurance sector, a Development Financial Institution, Bad Banks policies, etc.
While these policies do indirectly affect every single person in the nation, (better access to quality insurance products and reduced chances of a repeat of the YES bank situation, for instance), they are focused more on the macroeconomics aspects of the budget and would have a significantly lower impact on the common man.
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